In a good article in the just-released edition of Education Next, Alexander Russo looks at the struggles of graduates of the highly competitive program New Leaders for New Schools to find jobs in traditional public schools. (New Leaders is a training program for aspiring principals from largely nontraditional backgrounds that last year had 1,000 applicants for 55 spots). Russo profiles several New Leaders graduates, including Pablo Sierra, an MBA with private-sector experience on top of nine years in the classroom. According to Sierra, his credentials and experiences are "not being perceived as positive. All positions are going to experienced [assistant principals]." Only 7 out of 47 New Leaders have been hired to run traditional public schools.
As Russo points out, while part of the problem is just beating the odds (there simply are lots of applicants in the four New Leaders sites: New York, Chicago, DC, and the Bay Area) and part is political (local school councils rarely want to take a risk with an unknown for fear of angering higher-ups), many placement difficulties reflect a clear resistance at various levels to the notion of hiring individuals from outside the school system, many of whom do not have classroom experience. Jill Levy, for example, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators in New York, is quoted as asking, "Why should we think someone would be an effective principal just because they were once a student?" While not all opposed to New Leaders present quite such narrow views, clearly New Leaders has its work cut out for it. The good news is that with evidence coming forth about the effectiveness of New Leaders' principals and a growing number of organizations supporting its efforts, the program seems up to the challenge.