‘Obsessed’ Huffman Travels, Reorganizes

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has visited all 136 Tennessee school districts and now has a goal of visiting 10,000 teachers in settings where they can ask questions, reports The Tennessean. And he has reorganized the education department’s regional offices into a school district support network instead of eight offices that tell districts whether they’re complying with state policy.
“I’ve become obsessed with how do you spread the best practices on the ground?” Huffman said.
…He constantly sees districts of the same size with the same issues and same amount of money, but one will have a better academic record than the other.
“People are reinventing the wheel; the connection (communication between the districts) has to be made,” he said.
About three months ago, Huffman reorganized the eight regional offices and hired new leaders who meet once a week to help districts meet their goals.
Their evaluations will be based on whether the districts in their region have met academic goals, so they have a vested interest in helping as much as possible, Huffman said.
“Historically, they focused on compliance and would go and make sure the rules were followed and the paperwork was done,” Huffman added. “People often incentivize the wrong actions. We’re trying to get into the support business.”
He thinks districts will react favorably to the plan because of the gratitude they showed during his visits.
In some districts, Huffman would be surprised when he walked through a door to find 100 or more community members ready to ask questions. In other districts, it was top central office administrators and principals.
“Tennessee is still one of those places where shaking a hand and looking people in the eyes is important,” he said
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