With each issue, Trib+Edu brings you an interview with experts on issues related to public education. Here is this week's subject:
David Anthony’s 40-year career in public education spans service as CEO of Raise Your Hand Texas, an education advocacy charity, leading five independent school districts as superintendent, standing as the youngest principal – at 25 years old – in Louisiana in 1978, and teaching high school for several years.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Edu: Tell us about Raise Your Hand Texas.
David Anthony: Raise Your Hand Texas has been around for about eight years. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on improving public school and supporting public education for all students.
We are engaged in research and policy matters. We are especially engaged at the ground level providing high-quality professional development for seated principals as well as aspiring principals. We have Teaching Trust in Dallas, the New Leader program for developing future principals, and we have a partnership with Harvard and Rice University and the International Center for Leadership and Education providing executive coaching and high-quality professional development for principals in the state of Texas. We try to work at the state level, but we also work across the state on campuses and in districts.
Trib+Edu: What is the training experience like for public school leaders you work with?
Anthony: We have trained over 800 principals across the state, and they are selected to go to the Harvard program, [which] has about four or five institutes every summer for specific purposes or specific needs of principals. [The program is] for principals who have been in place three to five years. ... [It involves the] Data Wise program, which is effective in identifying the appropriate data, analyzing the data and making decisions based on the data on your campus or districts. They get seven to nine days up there, and after that process, they identify a needs assessment on their campus based on what they learned at the session. They develop an intervention plan and we work with them on monitoring that intervention.
The Rice program is called the Rice Education Entrepreneurship program. Rice does not have a college of education, so this program is actually taught through the Jones Graduate School of Business, and they do a great job. It is a 12-month program. Principals earn a business certificate if they are successful and they go to class Thursday evening, all day Friday and Saturday nine or 10 times a year and then have a 10-week intensive session during the summer. They have a project they have to develop based on what they are learning and what needs to be addressed on their campus. If they are successful in getting that project up and running, then they get a business certificate and they are monitored by Rice University personnel as well as Raise Your Hand Texas.
With the International Center for Leadership and Education, we partner with them to provide executive coaches for one year to principals across the state based on campuses that are in need, how long a principal has been there, recommendations from the superintendent and if they are willing to make the changes that are necessary. We’ll bring in one of our three coaches. They spend one full day every month going everywhere they go, and they work with them on leadership needs and a development improvement plan that is tied to the campus improvement plan. So while they are improving the campus, we are addressing needs they need to improve as well. If you and your campus are improving, that should be easily identified by data.
Trib+Edu: What sort of campus do these programs work with?
Anthony: By working in the districts, we have a clear understanding of what the challenges are in public education. We make sure in our leadership expansion program, where we are providing executive coaches, we have principals from small and poor districts, mid-sized districts, suburban districts and large urban.
Trib+Edu: How do you bring principals into these programs?
Anthony: It is kind of invitation-only based on the districts and campuses that always seem to be at the focal point of legislation. If they require improvement, we look at how long they have been that way and if they are willing to accept leadership and coaching. That is important. ... We haven’t found anyone who has turned us away. We have to be really careful who we offer it to because they are probably going to accept.
Trib+Edu: What is the goal?
Anthony: We want to make sure we are geographically diverse, diverse with the types of campuses in elementary, middle and high school and with the types of issues they are facing because we hope to come from that with best practices. … Our goal is to come up with all these best practices and tell principals. ... It is very clear to us that every district and campus has its own DNA. There is no “one type” intervention that works across the board. You have to look at a number of different interventions. So if you come up with a lot of options and many best practices, then your chances improve of providing them something that works. We want to help the campuses, and identify what is working and what is not.