Finding Your Affinity Through AASA Consortiums

By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, September 2015

DomenechAnother school year is underway while AASA continues to celebrate its 150th anniversary. In all of those years, we have honored our founders’ mission to be advocates for the public schools and the children we serve.

Along with our advocacy role is also the professional development of our members. Today AASA coordinates a range of programs that engage our members in areas of interest and allow them to interact and collaborate with colleagues nationwide.

Seventeen school districts are involved in the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium. Their mission is to significantly advance systemic education improvement and innovation in policy and practice to benefit all students. Consortium districts collectively serve more than 1.55 million students, and membership is by invitation and approval from current members. The group is chaired by Dallas Dance, superintendent in Baltimore County, Md., and a member of AASA’s Executive Committee.

Through a community of practice, the consortium seeks to define an assessment process that truly measures what matters, placing a higher priority on assessments that improve teaching and learning.

Some 30 school districts make up the AASA Collaborative. AASA Associate Executive Director Morton Sherman, formerly AASA’s superintendent-in-residence, leads a group that considers itself a national think tank of superintendents. Meetings of the collaborative have attracted the likes of Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair at the University of Oregon, author Heidi Hayes Jacobs and consultant Bena Kallick. The focus is on collaboration and working together as critical friends to solve problems confronting our schools.

Certification Cohorts

AASA’s Digital Consortium has convened 30 superintendents to identify problems and share successes in making the digital leap. Former National Superintendent of the Year Mark Edwards of Mooresville, N.C., has been leading this effort. During his nine years there, Edwards has transformed the district into one of the most successful examples of blended learning with one-laptop-per-child technology and a culture that focuses on the individual needs of each child. The other superintendents in the group have had similar successes in their district and serve as resources to superintendents looking to make the digital leap.

The positive outcome that comes about when K-12 systems communicate and collaborate with their regional community colleges is the thrust behind our K-12/Community College Partnership Group. Forty superintendents and community college presidents are sharing how their collaboration is increasing graduation rates and college and career readiness. Students simultaneously graduating with high school and associate college degrees are common fare for many of these districts. In partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges, our goal is to replicate this process throughout America.

Our National Superintendent Certification Program has been a huge success. Our first cohort graduated this past February at our national conference in San Diego. There are three cohorts now underway with our next graduation scheduled for the 2016 conference in Phoenix. New additions to the certification program are urban programs in partnership with Howard University and the University of Southern California and our first state-level program for aspiring superintendents in Minnesota in partnership with the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

New Engagement

At the beginning of summer, we launched our Makers Movement Superintendent Consortium with a meeting at the White House. Last year, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and issued a call to action that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.”

Cognizant of the personalized education efforts generated by the digital transformation, a Personalized Education Collaborative is being launched by superintendents deeply engaged in the process, with the first convening of the group scheduled for Oct. 5-7 in Salt Lake City. These superintendents see technology as facilitating the transformation of education to a truly personalized format where each child will receive, at all times, instruction that matches his or her level of aptitude and knowledge.

Thanks to all of these collaboratives and consortiums, member engagement in AASA is at an all-time high.

Daniel Domenech is AASA executive director. E-mail: ddomenech@aasa.org. Twitter: @AASADan