1. He's open-minded and fearless about experimenting with good education reform ideas from any source.
And that's it! He had us at "open-minded."
Knowing Grier, it was no surprise to read today's New York Times report that Houston has now made a foray into the world of "no excuses" schooling with its "Apollo 20" — 20 regular old schools modeling themselves after high-performing charter schools. What's been borrowed from those charters? Longer school days and years, more rigorous and selective hiring of principals and teacher, frequent quizzes, "high-dosage tutoring," and a "no excuses" culture. Mind you, these ideas are either still so radical or so close to the bone of labor negotiations that Roland Fryer, the Harvard economics professor who shopped the proposal, was turned down by the open-minded and fearless Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee. Grier is the "early adopter," as he has been on many other education reform ideas, making him stand out as strikingly different from all but a very small handful of the nation's thousands of school district heads.
Maybe you've heard the motto of teacher phenom Rafe Esquith: "teach like your hair's on fire" — advice that Grier has clearly taken to the school leadership level.