Systematic Challenges

Earlier this week I attended a national meeting of EAB’s Superintendents’ Leadership Forum in Chicago. Admittedly, I don’t yet know a lot about K-12 outside of having friends who are teachers and the handful of folks who were in my graduate classes. What I learned should not have surprised me: K-12 leaders are challenged by many of the same things that those of us in higher ed are dealing with. Some that resonated with me are preparing students for careers, motivating students and teachers, declining enrollment, navigating politics, providing wrap-around services, and perhaps most top of mind, student safety and responding to activism.

Both the K-12 and higher ed sectors are also dealing with state divestment. EAB has many tool kits and research to help these sectors succeed, and I would urge K-12 and local higher ed partners to work together even more than they already do. It’s difficult; time and money are finite, they run on different schedules, and there are so many things that they could organize around. I’m not sure I would have said the same in 2010 when I started my first job out of my masters program. I loved so many parts of that job but the thorn in my side was a tutoring partnership with a local high school. I spent a lot of time trying to order pizza and take attendance for high school students who didn’t seem to care. If they didn’t, then why should I.

Of course now I know that that was misguided. Those students were primarily, if not entirely, students of color. They came from low-performing schools and from low socio-economic background. The tutoring was important, of course, but what was more important, was showing them that college was a possible pathway for them.  I know there are lots of these types of programs across the country, and I hope that the staff “gets it” sooner than I did. 


While in Chicago I did take time to enjoy some deep dish pizza (with butter crust, of course) and some Garrett’s popcorn. I’m a pizza purist by heart (I am a New Yorker, after all), but it was a delightful treat.


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