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From the Editor

The Competitive Advantage

Are U.S. schools rigorous enough to compete with other high-performing countries in a global economy?

Welcome to our Annual Salary Survey section, an 11-year-old tradition! The article that accompanies the 10 charts comparing school administrators' salaries, written by Associate Editor Marion Herbert, defends the salary levels of superintendents, comparing them to corporate CEOs' salaries, and addresses recent proposals by some governors to cap superintendents' salaries. I had an opportunity recently to speak with William Mayes, president of the Association of State Executives (ASE), about this topic, saying it's "quite often a two-edged sword." You can read more about what he had to say in this month's Conversations interview.

We asked Contributing Writer Ron Schachter to write about the topic of academic rigor in schools today. One of the major goals of the creators of the Common Core State Standards, having been inspired by the performance of students in high-performing countries, was to increase rigor. President Obama talks about college readiness as a main priority for the reauthorization of NCLB. But in order for students to be successful in this global economy, they need to be inspired and motivated by teachers and administrators who are willing to raise the bar for all students. One such administrator is recently retired Superintendent Jerry Weast, who went beyond state and federal standards to bring a new culture of expectations to the Montgomery County (Md.) School District after analyzing National Student Clearinghouse data from 34,000 graduates and overhauling the district. His efforts made a difference, as 86 percent of ninth-graders graduated last year, versus 60 percent in 2003.

And then there are the tougher stories to tell. Anthony (Tony) Smith has been leading the Oakland (Calif.) Unified School District since July 2009 when the district was released from state control due to serious financial problems. The school board recently approved a five-year strategic plan, articulating a full-service community school district with an emphasis on caring for the whole child. Indeed, it is sorely needed, as the crime rate is horrific in the district, with 13 students murdered last year.

Student Counsel columnist Chris Griffin ends this issue with a reminder of how scary and hopeless going back to school can be for a student who struggles academically. Hopefully, new initiatives will effect positive changes for these students and keep them in school.

Best wishes for a productive school year.

Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor in Chief

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