March 6, 2018

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Report on the superintendency fails to offer solutions, perpetuates problems

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Mar. 6, 2018) — A recent report from the Center for Reinventing Public education (CRPE) sought to provide an overview on how school district superintendents could be more effective at influencing others, harnessing the political power of the position, and exercising real power to accomplish agendas. An academic review of the report reveals that the report lacks substance, perpetuates antiquated methods, and does not advance our knowledge.

William J. Mathis of University of Colorado Boulder, a former superintendent, reviewed the report, Unlocking Potential: How Political Skill Can Maximize Superintendent Effectiveness, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Broadly, the report attempts to describe the work of a superintendent as a series of interactions with internal groups (working in a school district) and external stakeholders (business and foundation leaders, and policymakers).

In his review, Mathis finds that the report does not provide a research design, literature review, or a description of data collection. Instead, he says that the report simply relies on the authors' life experiences and "common sense" approaches.

Mathis further points out that the power-based theory proposed in the report fails to consider the historic role that school boards and superintendents have played in preventing politicized governance. Additionally, Mathis notes that the report assumes a stronger, more influential superintendent is beneficial for schools, communities, and students.

In summary, he says, "this report offers nothing new or insightful. It is more a reflection of nineteenth century thinking than twenty-first century leadership." Put concisely, Mathis concludes that this report offers no value to policymaking or for an aspiring superintendent seeking answers.

Find the review on the web:

Find the original CRPE report here:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the review on the NEPC website:

- ### -

Friend on Facebook

Follow on Twitter

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at