Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The New Commish Just Might Rock Our World

Nebraska Commissioner
of Education
Matt Blomstedt
I have heard the new Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt speak on three different occasions now.  He's been consistently on message and brings the right combination of compassionate idealism about education plus political savvy that just might help produce great results for Nebraska schools. 

Except for the sporadic committee meeting interaction, I really did not know Matt before he took over the state ed chief post.  But so much of what I've heard from Matt since he followed the stellar Roger Breed (props to a former fellow EMC Superintendent) has been memorable and meaningful. Unlike some folks who get into positions of policy leadership, Blomstedt is not interested in rehashing platitudes or appeasing those around him. He's clearly interested in pushing a change initiative through that is focused on:
  • Collaborative sharing of best practices: find what works in schools and work to replicate it.
  • Data-informed decision making: use data less as a blunt object with which to bludgeon schools and more as a tool to help inform instruction.
  • Provision of the resources to accomplish needed work, together.
Some memorable one-liners I've heard from Commissioner Blomstedt that I think divulge valuable insights into his leadership and where we're heading in Nebraska education:

  • "Accountability should be less about stressing out about where you are from a 'status' standpoint and more about documenting and delivering progress over time."
  • "Data can't make decisions for us.  It can only inform decisions. Let's be careful not to create a system where the data dictate and remove the human element."
  • "The focus needs to shift to less worrying about accountability and more on students continuing to do better and better over time."
  • "We can decide together to provide leadership in a different way, leadership that is not us vs. them, big vs. small, rural vs. urban, but an acknowledgment that we are all in this together, and we have a duty to all the students in the state of Nebraska."
  • "It's one thing to be bold in leadership, and another to just go around offending people.  There's got to be a balance as we go boldly forward."
One other note: when you talk with Matt, you'll notice he's not making this stuff up as he goes along. He's got a combination of erudition and experiential wisdom.  His pedigree includes a run at NRCSA and working with some pretty renowned ed leaders in Nebraska policymaking like Senator Ron Raikes.  Best of all, he speaks fluent Fullan and DuFour.