Getting Back in the Game
Manny Rivera and Rudy Crew, two nationally acclaimed educators, have transitioned from the role of superintendent into that of consultant with their new company, Global Partnership Schools (GPS).
Global Partnership Schools' mission is to accelerate school performance so that young people graduating from school are college and career ready. They have three major initiatives: (1) the Graduation Advancement Program, for ninth-grade overage and under-credited students at risk of dropping out, (2) an extended learning program offering unique supplemental educational plans, and (3) an approach to transform low-performing schools by implementing international best practices.
Rivera, CEO of the company, served as New York's deputy secretary for education and was the 2006 AASA National Superintendent of the Year while serving in Rochester, N.Y. As president of the company and a professor at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, Crew brings with him years of administrative expertise from his time as chancellor of New York City Schools and superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools.
Recently, Global Partnership Schools collaborated with CORE and was named one of 11 education service providers eligible to turn around low performing schools in Washington state by the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Global Partnership schools and CORE will assist schools recognized as being "persistently lowest achieving schools." The consultants will raise the bar for student performance by establishing on-the-ground coaching, high-leverage educational strategies, and structures to promote effective teaching and learning.
DA recently spoke with Crew and Rivera.
Q: How has the transition been to your new role as consultants, no longer responsible for the day-to-day duties of being in charge of large urban districts?
Rudy Crew: There's always been a role for private enterprise in the discussion about schools. Most of the time that role has been played out in the context of people who are buying something and people who are selling something. Part of Global Partnership Schools' uniqueness is that it really offers—in a deeper way—a thought partnership. It's not just about work that we want to do, and work that we can do because of our own backgrounds and expertise. It's recognizing that part of the landscape here requires us to be partners with other superintendents, district personnel, and school principals whose work is very much alive with the thinking and the vision with what is Global Partnership Schools. The transition has actually not been a difficult one at all. It's effectively about the kinds of things we've been trying to do as superintendents, but now we've stepped into a space where we actually offer kinds of services and a menu of offerings that we believe superintendents and district- and executive-level personnel really need.
Manny Rivera: (laughs) That's a good question. Both Rudy and I have a number of experiences over the last 30 years in public schools. Since leaving the superintendency, we've remained very passionate about children and improving the quality of education. We came together about a year ago and said, "Look. We've both had some successes and we've also had some failures." We wanted to take the best of what we've been able to develop and to bring that to creating a company that could help fill the gap. We felt that by aligning ourselves with some of the top educators that we've known that have worked with us and building a company around our core values, their improvement indicators can move to a higher level than they might be able to do on their own.
RC: But the synergy between these two roles is actually quite suggestive, if you will. In some way, we are creating a kind of connection between a body of new work that people have rightly defined as being global. It's not so much just about whether you can make AYP, but whether you can function in a global community. The combination of working at a university, specifically USC, and doing the actual work is a perfect complement to dealing with superintendents, and that is really where they're struggling. It's also about recognizing that education is going to be the American problem to be figured out. It isn't just that there are discrete districts here and there. This is America's problem.
What are your thoughts about the Common Core State Standards Initiative?
MR: It goes way beyond learning standards. For us it means, what are our standards of excellence for schools? What are some of the schools that are performing incredibly well? What are some of the standards of excellence that guide those schools? So we've actually been developing our own body of standards of excellence, globally benchmarked, as a starting point. In terms of a set of common standards, nationally, it's almost ridiculous to try and compare graduation rates from one state to another. They all use different assessments, and they all have different performance metrics. They have different standards.
RC: We need a way of being able to define at a much higher level the specific learning standards that make us uniquely a more intelligent nation. The hard part about this conversation is not so much can you get common core standards; it's can you get the assessments right? Can you create assessments that actually build conscientious students? We haven't done that a lot. We're just coming off an era with a lot of "testing, testing, testing, testing" for the sake of getting a better number. And we call that accountability. I've never quite been hard on that theory. I think we're going to need to have a greater conversation about what particular strategies are needed to get these assessments. This is no longer about can you just get them to take and pass the test. It's got to be about whether there's something greater than that. I think this is an important movement, but it's got to go hand in hand with the assessments and with the strategies.
Regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), do you feel the federal government is going in the right direction?
RC: I think that there's a component of this that is missing when you talk about redefining the federal role. Right now, the way I look at the stimulus money and the money that we've been putting out is that it has all gone to stimulating the wrong side of the equation. I think they'll need to stop thinking about investing in just the supplier side. They have got to create demand for public education. To a large extent, to hear us talk rather rhetorically about globalization and the impact on public schooling comes with no real vision. This is our Sputnik moment right now. This is our opportunity to come up with a vision to get a person in space. We're underleveraged on the idea side, but we're highly leveraged—at least theoretically—on the money side.
Don't you think this is what Secretary Duncan is trying to do?
RC: I suspect it is, but we're two years down the road.
And it hasn't happened yet?
RC: I'm not so sure I'm seeing it. I don't see smoke coming out of those chimneys.
MR: I believe we need to rethink our own governing structure because you're pumping money back into the same one that has failed to meet the needs of, specifically, poor children year after year. We need to do something fundamentally different in certain communities.