Move over Bill Nye, the Dean of Invention has arrived

  • How do you attract great principals to failing schools? One North Carolina district believes it has found the answer. As Newsweek reports, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s superintendent implemented a competition among his principals, the winners of which are “rewarded” with an opportunity to turn around a failing school. If they accept, the principals are granted freedom from certain district rules, the option to choose an eight-person transition team, a 10 percent raise, and the right to forcibly transfer up to five teachers out of the school into which they are moving. Every winning principal has accepted the offer, and many once-dismal schools are now showing exceptional progress.
  • Scratching your head about how to get your students interested in STEM-related subjects? The answer may be as close as your television. Dean of Invention, a new Planet Green program that debuted last Friday, explores the latest technological innovations (everything from robotic prosthetics to using human waste as an energy source) in a fun, easy-to-understand format the show’s creators hope will reach a broad age range of audiences. Check out USA Today’s article on the show here.
  • New Orleans has been the site of a striking school choice revolution, but doubts are arising as to whether or not the train of reform has left some would-be passengers behind. This Newsweek article wonders if the outstanding achievement of New Orleans’s charter schools has less to do with better educational methods and more to do with an unwillingness to enroll special needs and disabled students.
  • We’ve heard a lot recently about problems with teacher evaluation models, but Andrew J. Rotherham contends in his new TIME article “Paging Principal Skinner: Evaluating School Leaders” that principal evaluation models are equally flawed. Few school districts measure principals’ progress by clear standards, such as student achievement data, and agreements with principals’ unions makes it almost impossible to fire them. Rotherham asserts, though, that low-performing principals should not be blamed too much for their failures, as their ability to do anything substantive in their schools is generally limited severely by the power of budget rules and teachers’ unions.

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