The one about BRIGHT Ohio, Teach for America and CEOs...

The state of Ohio recently announced a newly re-branded initiative to attract, recruit and train new superintendents for the state's schools (http://www.brightohio.org). Interestingly--or horrifyingly, depending on your point of view--the BRIGHT initiative is based on the "executive MBA" model, and is designed to bring recent college graduates in degree programs other than education into school leadership positions in Ohio's schools. These eager new recruits would be admitted not to an administrative degree program, but to the MBA degree at Ohio State University, "fully paid for by BRIGHT", while being placed in a one year internship in an Ohio school, under the supervision of a "master principal." At the conclusion of the training program, each candidate will complete their "responsibilities as a BRIGHT leader..." by serving "at least two years as the principal of any public school in Ohio."

Now, some people might understandably have a few questions after hearing about the BRIGHT initiative. Like:

  • Why would we want school principals who have never taught?
  • Why are we designing new school leadership programs when there is no shortage of school administrators?
  • Why would an MBA be the best degree for a school principal or superintendent, and not a degree in education, or educational administration, or school leadership?
  • Why are persons with no teaching experience being placed as administrative interns when teachers who are working on their administrative credentials need these placements?
  • Why design a new school leadership training program that only requires its graduates to serve as principals for 2 years?
  • What Ohio school districts would actually hire these people?

Given that the BRIGHT program is clearly designed as a business model, I wondered how it compared to the way that business leaders are prepared. So, just out of curiosity, I looked into the typical career paths for CEOs--and this is what I found...


"Although some individuals are born leaders, most are made. Becoming a chief executive typically takes years of hard work. Extensive experience in the company's field is desirable and some companies tend to prefer those with degrees from upper-tier schools in business, economics or finance. Finally, those that have worked their way up from a low level within the organization may have an advantage, as they arguably know the company better than any outsider ever could." http://www.investopedia.com/articles/financialcareers/08/ceo-chief-executive-career.asp

If we transfer these characteristics to education, we might surmise that superintendents should have extensive experience in education with significant time in the classroom as a teacher, a degree in education and perhaps additional degrees in one's subject matter area, and should have worked their way up in the school system so that they know and understand the communities in which they work. But the folks at BRIGHT don't seem concerned with following ethical business principles when it comes to their true agenda--destabilizing schools by providing a rotating cast of short term leaders with no background or experience in education.

Now, why would the folks behind BRIGHT ignore the "best practices" from the business world, when they are basing their program on business models? As always, when you are confused about the premises of a new education reform idea, follow the money. And in this case, that means finding out who is paying for this program. The answers can be found under the "Partners" tab on the BRIGHT website:

"BRIGHT is proud to be working closely with the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Board of Regents, and Adjutant General of Ohio, as well as Ohio's three largest school districts – Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. National partners include New Leaders, Teach for America and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Jones Day provides comprehensive legal services on a pro bono basis."

And now the circle is squared. The BRIGHT program neatly fills in the niche between "Teach for America" (producing unqualified recruits for classrooms) and the Broad Superintendent's Academy (producing unqualified superintendents) by producing unqualified principals for Ohio's schools.

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Comments: 3
  • #1

    Sandra M Smith (Monday, 16 February 2015 23:21)

    Great post. They want people who are easy to direct. Fresh blood who won't rock the boat. By the way, the principal at almost every CA school I have encountered was hired about 2-3 years ago. There's something fishy there.

  • #2

    John R Johnson (Tuesday, 09 February 2016 13:28)

    What a wonderful program. It sounds great. Many great teachers are not meant to be great administrators nor do they want the challenges that come along with the position. If a principal could run a building like a CEO to recruit and retain top talent the building would make wonderful gains. They would have the advantage to find teachers who want to push their students instead of be ok with the status quo.

  • #3

    Mitch (Tuesday, 09 February 2016 13:52)

    John...we will agree to disagree. Of course there are wonderful teachers who choose not to become administrators. But to leap to running schools like businesses, and hiring CEOs to be school administrators is a leap too far. We have absolutely zero evidence that this approach is working anywhere...and in fact, the business approach to education has been shown to be a colossal failure across the country.

    And when you find a teacher who doesn't push their students to be their best and is satisfied with the "status quo," let me know. I'm guessing you will be at a Teach for America event.