Lively debate about whether Cathie Black can/will make a good school chancellor in New York City. I’d say the answer to ‘can’ is certainly yes, the answer to ‘will’ is who knows? But that’s not uncommon in high-stakes leadership roles. I look at that issue and the broader implications of the debate over Cathie Black in this week’s School of Thought column at TIME.
…It’s understandable why some teachers and education advocates are objecting so vociferously to an outsider coming in to run such a massive system (though it should be noted that if the new chancellor pledged to undo the current reform efforts, many of these same people wouldn’t care if Bloomberg had just hired Carrot Top as his new schools chief). If you’ve never worked in a school before, critics wonder, how can you oversee so many of them? But precisely because the New York district is so gargantuan, its chancellor needs a skill set far different from your average principal or teacher; the school system’s annual budget of more than $21 billion exceeds the gross domestic product of nearly half the world’s countries. Let me be clear, however, on two things: at this point, there’s no way to tell if Black will be an effective leader of New York’s mega-district. But what is lost in all the speculation about her is how outmoded — and counterproductive — American education’s approach to credentials is in the first place.