Malika Anderson named superintendent of Achievement School District in Tenn.

High school principal Otis Hackney is appointed Philadelphia's chief education officer
By: | Issue: January, 2016
December 9, 2015

Malika Anderson became superintendent of the Achievement School District in Tennessee this month. She had been the district’s No. 2 official.

The state-run, turnaround district was created in 2010 with a Race to the Top grant. It takes the bottom-performing 5 percent of schools in the state and assigns them to charter operators to help move them to the top 25 percent.

As of August, 29 schools were in the district. Anderson says her top priority will be increasing transparency and local involvement in the district.

Otis Hackney, principal of South Philadelphia High School, was named Philadelphia’s chief education officer by Mayor Jim Kenney in November.

Hackney is widely acclaimed for turning around the high school, which has faced racial tension and violent attacks on Asian students in recent years. Hackney led one of the most advanced efforts in the city to implement a “community” approach, which involves re-envisioning schools as accessible, full-service community centers for students and their families.

“He has successfully handled high-profile instances of racially motivated violence Ñtransforming the [high school] culture into a model for other urban education systems,” the mayor’s office said in a release.

Liz Birdsley, homeless specialist for Cedar Rapids Community School District in Iowa, piloted a bus program in November that picks up 10 homeless students from shelters and motels and brings them to and from school free of charge. The district had previously hired cabs to pick up students, but the bus program will be more cost-effective at $170 a day for 10 students, compared to $300 a day for taxis.

Last year, 620 of the district’s 16,150 pre-K through 12 students were homeless. If successful, the district plans to expand the program in the next several months.

In November, Seattle Public Schools’ board passed Superintendent Larry Nyland’s proposal to start school later in the morning. In 2016-17, most middle and high schools in the district will start an hour later, at 8:50 a.m., while many elementary schools will shift to an earlier time. The changes are a culmination of a years-long campaign by parents, teachers and sleep scientists, who advocated for delaying school start times to match teens’ biological clocks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommend starting school after 8:30 a.m. Seattle is one of the largest districts in the nation to approve such a change.

Principal Meghan Dunn of P.S. 446 in Brooklyn, N.Y., teamed with the nonprofit Partnership with Children to hire extra social workers to counsel students on physical and mental needs. The partnership began when the school opened in 2012, after two previous elementary schools in eight years were closed for poor performance.

The neighborhood is the poorest in Brooklyn, and has one of the highest rates of psychiatric hospitalizations and incarcerated residents in the city. Today, about a third of students meet with social workers each week in individual and group sessions. The incidence of students reading at grade level climbed to 41 percent last spring, up from 32 percent the previous year. The number of disciplinary incidents during the same time period dropped by more than a third.