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Last year, Kansas City Superintendent John Covington made headlines when he stabilized the hemorrhaging Kansas City School District (which had lost 75 percent of its students in the past four decades) by shutting half of the district's schools, selling the central office building, and axing close to a quarter of the administrative staff. And he did all of this with the backing of the school board and community leaders. So imagine their surprise (and ire) when Covington, who has been at the helm of KC schools for about two years, abruptly resigned last week?only to take the wheel of Michigan's nascent state-run ?reform school district,? the Education Achievement System (EAS). Finger-pointing and fist-shaking aside, there are a few big takeaways to be drawn from Covington's departure?and his arrival in Motown.

First: KC should have seen this coming?and should have planned for it. The lifespan of an urban supe is akin to that of an American Newt (which, for the non-zoologists out there is about three years). And it's even shorter for those, like Covington, who are brought in as transformational leaders. Dynamic leadership can jumpstart a district's success, but it needs to be buttressed by a smart?and painstakingly articulated?transition plan. The Center for Reinventing Public Education made this point (though they were speaking specifically to charter schools) back in December in their report ?You're Leaving? Sustainability and Succession in Charter Schools.?

Second: When it comes to high-quality district leaders, the educational landscape is reasonably...

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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A map of the world

Since the PISA-results bomb dropped last December, myriad reports have been released, op-eds written, and dinner conversations had comparing the American education system to high-achieving OECD nations. Some of them have been pretty smart. Others have been reasonably vapid, if well-intentioned. And almost all seem compelled to hail Finland. If only our system could be more Scandinavian, they croon.

Absolutely there are some elements of the Finnish system that should be lauded and emulated (their rigorous teacher training and constant loop of peer-feedback are big ones for me). But turning our schools into a United States of Finland will no sooner skyrocket our children's achievement than adopting whole-hog the policies of South Korea (with its strict, albeit slackening test-based culture) or even Poland or South Africa (which have been marking sharp gains in student achievement since stepping from the shadows of the Soviet Union and apartheid, respectively.

Thing is, there is no perfect system. And touting one in its entirety blinds us from some important points regarding international comparisons and takeaways.

Here is what we should be considering:

The Devil is in the details:

Sweeping comparisons of entire education systems make for explosive headlines and engaging reading (and fun ?what if? or ?if only? games). But when it comes...

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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