Roundtable Promotes Cross-Cultural Leadership Exchange

by Gerald Kohn

The National Superintendents Roundtable, established in 2006, is a forum in which school leaders can explore pressing issues, as a safe harbor for learning and reflection on the state of American life and schools.

Made up of 55 school superintendents from more than 20 states, the roundtable is financed by membership dues and has received support from corporations, the Johnson and Kellogg foundations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It aims to expand the discussion of education in America beyond assessment and accountability to think in a systematic way about what the future and the world need from American educators.

In 2007 and ’08, the roundtable explored leadership issues (through case studies led by Harvard’s Marc Roberts), effective public communication (with Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania), the demands of high-skill work (during visits to Microsoft and the Boeing Corp.) and systems thinking (a two-day seminar led by Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline). Its leaders were invited to Japan to discuss educational needs in a global context and the roundtable organized a delegation of superintendents to visit China with the help of the College Board and Hanban.

In 2009, the organization plans to explore school-community relations and how technology can help create schools of the future. It hopes to work with Hanban and the College Board to send another delegation to China.

The roundtable is committed to creating American schools that are world class; providing a first-rate public school for every child; bringing down barriers of race and class; eliminating the achievement gap; and putting the public back into public education.

Further details about the roundtable, including a video and photographic record of the 2008 visit to China, are available at