With that in mind, let me introduce you to BRIGHT.
BRIGHT (previously "New Leaders for Ohio Schools")is "a bold effort to recruit, train and place committed leaders to head high-poverty public schools" across Ohio. It's a partnership between the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Business Roundtable, and the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University. Oversight of the program is proudly provided by a board including Ohio's senate and house leaders, the Ohio state superintendent, and Ohio's great man-child of a governor. Which is only right, because it would take more than just one large organization to come up with a plan this dumb.
The website credits the 2012 report "Failure Is not an Option" from Public Agenda. This report was reviewed by Mark Paige for the National Education Policy Center, and I'm not going to work through that whole review for you. The basic executive summary of the Public Agenda paper is this: if you have a really super-duper principal with awesometastic programs in place, you can totally fix poor kids and their poor school without having to actually spend money doing it. The basic summary of the NEPC review is... well, they gave it one of their coveted Bunkum Awards. Specifically, the "Do You Believe in Miracles" award. Will you be surprised if I tell you Public Agenda's funders include the Joyce Fundation, the Broad Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates?
So that little piece of unicorn farming is the basis for this shiny new program. So how does BRIGHT work?
Indeed the landscape in Ohio and across the country is replete with examples, going back twenty years, of "traditional" leadership training programs – some have worked; most have not. Recent pension reforms enacted by the Ohio General Assembly are triggering the retirements of scores of school administrators across Ohio, creating a unique opportunity for Ohio to attract the best and the brightest as school principals.
Yes, all our traditional training methods suck (but we have no ideas about how to fix them, or what is wrong, really). But we have a great opportunity because our stupid reformster ideas in Ohio are driving our school leaders right out of the profession. This is totally not a sign that our reformy ideas are dopey failures; all those departing leaders just don't get how awesome we are.
Who should be signing up to work the miracles? Well, the inaugural class will be selected from "diverse professions." If you've got a bachelor's degree and any sort of leadership experience, step right up. This job is tough but (and, yes, I am quoting here) it's "the toughest job you'll ever love." So, this is just like Peace Corps work, I guess. I have had friends and former students serve with the Peace Corps, so I'm a bit torn about who's being insulted by this appropriation of the old slogan, but at the very least this does not speak well of a bold, innovative new program that somehow couldn't come up with original ad copy.
How will it work? Well, this first group will be placed in a
Seriously. BRIGHT's own copy calls principalling a 24/7 life, but apparently somewhere between the 24 and the 7 there's room to do coursework (sixteen of them, in four modules) for the Fisher School's program, which requires three days on campus a month.
What cool things will you do while you're learning how to principal and becoming a certified Master of the Universe? Well, there will be "intensive personal assessment and development experiences such as team-building exercises; 360 feedback surveys; site visits to high-poverty, high-minority, high achieving schools across the country; and learnings from your assigned master principal and outside business mentor – all focused on reinforcing the leadership competencies to be instilled in all BRIGHT Fellows." I am particularly excited about the learnings. I think one of the best things about my teaching job is the many learnings I give to my students. But still-- the chance to actually visit a high-poverty school, all full of minority students! Doesn't that sound ecxiting?
Oh, but what are these leadership competencies of which you speak?
That particular list is hosted on the Ohio Business Roundtable site, which makes sense considering it includes things like Change Leadership and Drive for Results. In fairness, it also includes Caring for Children. I'm intrigued by the Instructional Leadership item, which is explained as "Is able to recognize and coach teachers in constructive efforts to improve teaching effectiveness." First, I do hope that a principal will be able to recognize teachers when he sees them. Second, I'm wondering how this super principal will be able to provide instructional coaching when he has never done a day of teaching in his life, nor taken an education course, either. I think I should drop by the Business Roundtable and offer to tell them how to do their jobs, too.
BRIGHT has just hired a president, Dr. Thomas G. Maridada, formerly a Michigan Superintendent of the Year and more recently working for the Children's Defense Fund. BRIGHT also has several partners including the Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus school systems, as well as New Leaders and (you knew this was coming) TFA.
When all is said and done, our insta-principal will emerge with a fast-tracked certificate and a shiny MBA. He will owe the state of Ohio two years of work as a principal-- it is not entirely clear whether he will have to find his own job or if he will be placed. The state prefers that the insta-principal go to work at a high-poverty school, but it appears that any Ohio public school will meet the requirements.
So, to recap-- we're going to take somebody with a bachelors degree and no experience, let them intern at a school for a year while simultaneously doing grad school work, and at the end of the year, he will go be a principal at some troubled school, where his awesome leadership skills and great MBA-ness will allow him to turn every student into a success without having to spend more money.
I suppose this was inevitable. TFA was providing us with insta-teachers and the Broad Foundation has been cranking out insta-superintendents. There was a real market niche for people to quickly become principals without having to mess around with all that actual experience or training (or actually committing themselves to principalling as their lifetime career). After all, who better to supervise undertrained, inexperienced TFA temps than an undertrained, inexperienced pretend principal. Ohio has stepped into the gap to fill that need.
The one mystery I was not able to solve-- BRIGHT certainly looks like an acronym, but I can't discover what it stands for. Big Reformy Initiative for Getting Highplaced Temps? Business Revenue Interests Getting Hard on Teachers? Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be a great stepping stone for some future business whiz, and a disaster for some poor school.