Thursday, March 1, 2012

Robin Lake named CRPE Director

March 1, 2012: CRPE Founder Paul T. Hill steps down as Director, naming long-time colleague Robin Lake as his successor. Both Paul and Robin share letters explaining the transition...

From Robin Lake:

It’s truly an honor to receive the baton from my long-time collaborator and mentor, Paul Hill, and accept the role of the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Nearly 18 years ago Paul handed me a manuscript called Reinventing Public Education. I read his ideas about how urban school districts might be redesigned so that they function on behalf of strong schools and student success—not adult interests and politics. I was hooked. There was nothing I wanted to do more than work with Paul to develop and test path-breaking ideas for reimagining a system currently designed to fail a significant portion of America’s students.

Since those early days, Paul and I, our colleagues Marguerite Roza, Christine Campbell, Betheny Gross, Michael DeArmond, and many others have worked to build CRPE from a place that was known to most as “Paul Hill’s shop” to a nationally respected organization that produces rigorous research and generates bold new ideas on a wide range of timely reform topics. We were successful only because Paul has always been more committed to developing other people’s talents and ideas than promoting his own.

Although we all hoped Paul would want to run the center until his dotage, he has more than earned the right to enjoy more time writing and spending time with his family and less time managing. Since founding CRPE in 1993, Paul’s ideas have inspired and informed the renewal of urban school systems in major U.S. cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, New York City, Denver, and Boston. He argued (in It Takes a City and Fixing Urban Schools) that all of the major reform strategies of the recent decades—even those he saw as most promising—are incomplete, and he pushed reformers from all “camps” to look across strategies to form complementary alliances. Paul’s intellectual contributions to the field are many, and through his mentorships of researchers and practitioners, they extend well beyond what he has produced directly. His influence on research and policy will be evident for decades. We’re thankful that Paul will continue to work at the Center, prod, and advise.

The next few years promise to be some of CRPE’s most dynamic. We’ll continue to do what we do best: balanced, clear, and pragmatic research coupled with bold and creative thinking. We’ll focus our work over the next few years on three main areas:

  • Redesign: How to re-mission school districts and state governments around managing a portfolio of school choices on the basis of performance.
  • Innovation: How to develop, test, and scale-up innovative instructional systems that use new combinations of technology and teacher work.
  • Finance and Productivity: How to use public funding and philanthropy in times of limited resources to achieve high levels of learning and attainment for all children, especially the disadvantaged.

But tomorrow’s CRPE will also change and grow. We will explore new possibilities for impact. We’ll place more emphasis on outreach and direct support to state school chiefs, district leaders, and others who are implementing the research and ideas that we’ve been working on for so long. Most notably, we’ll expand our work with more than two dozen urban “portfolio management” districts. We’ll help them as they implement bold reforms and grow the next generation of district leaders.

Look for new CRPE research and initiatives on effective practices of charter management organizations, the role of districts in school turnaround efforts, ways to train and support teachers in technology-oriented schooling, per-pupil funding, district-charter collaboration efforts, and innovation zones.

There are many think tanks and research centers around, but we think CRPE is unique: we value evidence over posture and never shy away from hard truths. As we like to say here, public education is a goal, not a particular set of institutions. We not only think up new ideas; we constantly question whether our ideas still have merit. We will continue to produce the rigorous and creative analysis we are known for, with the same corps of talent and work, but hopefully with even greater reach and impact.

I’m as hooked today on CRPE and our work as I was 18 years ago. Our CRPE team looks forward to engaging with you as we press forward toward the urgent goal of a world-class public education for every student.

Robin J. Lake
Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education

From Paul Hill:

After nearly 19 years as the head of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, I am eager to work a bit less and focus more on research. Robin Lake, whom you have known as my closest collaborator, becomes Director today as I step down.

Robin has earned a fine reputation as a scholar, particularly on charter schools and educational innovation. She is known and trusted by sponsors and collaborators. She also knows what CRPE does best and how it can continue making a difference in America’s education policy debate.

What might be less well known is Robin’s gift for leadership within the Center. Her ability to help every staff member and collaborator work at the peak of his or her effectiveness is exceptional. Robin inspires trust and loyalty. She can help others share her broad vision of policy and research, yet let them work in the way that is most effective for them.

Robin and I have built a staff of people who have become national resources on education policy and finance, state and local improvement strategies, and innovation. Key researchers and collaborators, Christine Campbell, Michael DeArmond, Betheny Gross, Patrick Murphy, and Marguerite Roza (just returned from leave at the Gates Foundation) will ensure that CRPE remains productive and influential. CRPE is also attracting a growing group of brilliant younger scholars, seasoned research affiliates, and advisors.

Under Robin, CRPE’s best days are only beginning and I am grateful she has accepted the full burdens of leadership. I say “full” because Robin has carried a great deal of the CRPE leadership load for some years. My stepping down will add to her burdens but, in truth, she has been doing a big part of the job for some time.

Robin has also developed excellent working relationships with Chancellor Kenyon Chan and Vice Chancellor Susan Jeffords of the University of Washington Bothell, CRPE’s very supportive institutional home.

I intend to cut my work down incrementally over a few years—this year, only by 20 percent. I will still lead the CRPE projects to which I am committed as principal investigator, and might take on new ones. Robin has asked me to maintain an “of counsel” relationship to her and the Center. This means I will be available to offer advice and help when asked.

In my nearly 45 years of professional work, nothing touches the joy and satisfaction I have felt in building CRPE and watching Robin and many other young researchers grow into positions of leadership. I think we have accomplished a great deal, offering new ideas about how public education can be much more effective, especially for disadvantaged children in big cities. These ideas—including portfolio school districts, accountability for charter authorizers, and student-based funding—are catching hold nationwide. We have also, as is our commitment, led the way in pointing out the risks and limitations, as well as the strengths, of our own ideas.

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Paul T. Hill
Founder, Center on Reinventing Public Education