The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BEN PERSETT WASH­ING­TON

Nul­lify D.C.’s Death With Dig­nity Act: Govern­ment’s role is to pre­vent suicides, not fa­cil­i­tate them.

This week, Ant­wan Wil­son be­comes the chan­cel­lor of D.C. Pub­lic Schools, step­ping into one of the most scru­ti­nized school su­per­in­ten­dent roles in the coun­try — a po­si­tion that vaulted for­mer chan­cel­lors Michelle Rhee and Kaya Hen­der­son to na­tional promi­nence.

It’s a crit­i­cal pick for our chil­dren and for the legacy of progress DCPS has made to­ward pro­vid­ing ev­ery stu­dent with ac­cess to eq­ui­table ed­u­ca­tion. For ex­am­ple, un­der Hen­der­son’s ten­ure, DCPS be­came the fastest-im­prov­ing ur­ban school dis­trict in the United States. In 2015, Na­tional As­sess­ment of Ed­u­ca­tional Progress read­ing scores for fourth-grade stu­dents in DCPS grew by seven points over the 2013 test. Un­der her lead­er­ship, en­roll­ment in­creased af­ter decades of de­cline, and grad­u­a­tion rates climbed to the high­est they’ve been in the Dis­trict’s his­tory.

Su­per­in­ten­dents and their staff can make a huge im­pact in the lives of their stu­dents and teach­ers, and I am heart­ened as I learn more about Wil­son’s track record of col­lab­o­ra­tion, fo­cus, tal­ent and in­no­va­tion as su­per­in­ten­dent of the Oak­land Uni­fied School Dis­trict in Cal­i­for­nia.

The na­tional non­profit I work for, Ed­u­ca­tion Pi­o­neers, be­lieves that ex­tra­or­di­nary change in ed­u­ca­tion re­quires ex­tra­or­di­nary peo­ple. We re­cruit, con­nect and ad­vance lead­ers in ed­u­ca­tion who solve prob­lems from out­side of the class­room so stu­dents and teach­ers suc­ceed in the class­room.

At Ed­u­ca­tion Pi­o­neers, we also spend a lot of time think­ing about and re­search­ing what makes a trans­for­ma­tive ed­u­ca­tion leader, whether he or she is a su­per­in­ten­dent or just en­ter­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. From what we’ve seen in col­lab­o­rat­ing with Wil­son in Oak­land, we think he demon­strates many im­por­tant lead­er­ship traits.

• Bridge-build­ing: Trans­for­ma­tive lead­ers col­lab­o­rate with com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and fam­i­lies to sup­port and de­velop the whole child, from so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing to nu­tri­tion. They also over­see en­roll­ment pro­cesses that pro­vide eq­ui­table ac­cess to high-per­form­ing schools.

Time and again we saw Hen­der­son col­lab­o­rate with com­mu­nity lead­ers and fam­i­lies to find com­mon ground in the best in­ter­ests of D.C. stu­dents and their schools. In Oak­land, Wil­son set up key part­ner­ships with city and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, and he cre­ated the African Amer­i­can Male Achieve­ment ini­tia­tive that has been rec­og­nized as a ground­break­ing ef­fort to ad­dress op­por­tu­nity gaps. Bridge-build­ing lead­ers cre­ate au­then­tic con­nec­tions and en­gage in a con­tin­u­ous process of growth and de­vel­op­ment. They should be com­fort­able re­flect­ing on their own bi­ases, ac­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences.

• A tal­ent mind-set. Trans­for­ma­tive lead­ers cul­ti­vate a di­verse tal­ent pool and a driven set of lead­ers within their or­ga­ni­za­tion. They de­velop col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proaches to im­prove teacher prepa­ra­tion with uni­ver­si­ties and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions. They im­prove su­per­vi­sion, eval­u­a­tion and sup­port sys­tems for school lead­ers. They pro­vide clear teacher ca­reer lad­ders and sup­ports, be­gin­ning at the point of hire. They shift from com­pli­ance-based hu­man re­sources prac­tices to strate­gic hu­man cap­i­tal man­age­ment.

Hen­der­son was a cham­pion of tal­ented peo­ple: of find­ing and sup­port­ing them and help­ing them grow. She in­vested in teacher and staff de­vel­op­ment and gave prin­ci­pals au­ton­omy. She found ways to get the “stuff ” of school op­er­a­tions off prin­ci­pals’ long lists of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to en­sure they’d have time to be the in­struc­tional lead­ers our teach­ers and schools need, and she shrank the cen­tral of­fice to di­vert more re­sources to schools.

Wil­son was rec­og­nized for in­creas­ing re­sources and sup­port for schools serv­ing the most dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents.

• Con­tin­ual progress. Trans­for­ma­tive lead­ers are al­ways in­no­vat­ing and pre­pared to re­spond to new and ex­ist­ing chal­lenges. Ed­u­ca­tion Pi­o­neers alum­nus Brian Pick is chief of teach­ing and learn­ing for DCPS. In the 2015-2016 school year, he launched the DCPS Cor­ner­stone ini­tia­tive, which cre­ated rig­or­ous lessons for ev­ery DCPS stu­dent in read­ing, math, science, so­cial stud­ies, art, mu­sic, phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, health and world lan­guages, and was de­vel­oped by top teach­ers in DCPS.

Hen­der­son sup­ported in­no­va­tion at DCPS. Wil­son did also in Oak­land when he over­saw the re­design of five high schools.

It might seem from the out­side that school dis­trict lead­ers are dis­tant from the class­room, but in the Dis­trict, we know that school chan­cel­lors and other cen­tral of­fice lead­ers have an enor­mous ef­fect on the suc­cess of our teach­ers and stu­dents. Wil­son does not have an easy job ahead of him and will need sup­port from our com­mu­nity.

The com­mu­nity should get be­hind Wil­son’s bold vi­sion to en­sure the suc­cess of all D.C. stu­dents.

The writer is di­rec­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion Pi­o­neers.


Ant­wan Wil­son meets with city of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, right, in Novem­ber.

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