C&J Blog

The C&J Blog gives partners and associates a way to share insights learned from working with a very diverse set of clients–including small rural districts, large urban districts, states, foundations, and national non-profits. Our aim is to highlight promising practices and current developments in the areas of federal and state policy, school and district reform, talent management, expanded learning, and school finance. We hope you find these postings informative and thought- provoking. Please feel free to provide feedback and share with friends!

A big congratulations and thank you to Omaha superintendent and Cross & Joftus client Mark Evans, who recently announced his retirement effective the end of the school year. In December 2013, I wrote a blog post entitled Watch Out for Omaha. In the post, I noted that the district had...
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Author(s): Scott Joftus
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By Christopher T. Cross
Donald Trump's campaign recently announced that it would focus on education during the entire week of August 29th. In general, most of us might think that attention given to education by a presidential candidate would be beneficial. Raising the profile of a critical but oft-neglected policy issue and informing...
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Fifty years after the Coleman Report highlighted vast achievement gaps between students from low-income and more affluent communities, those gaps remain nearly as large as when Coleman and his team first published their findings. Even our best attempts at improving student outcomes through increased academic rigor have not yielded...
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Have you ever reviewed a job description and were left wondering what the role would actually do? Official job descriptions are usually jargon-filled documents that don’t clearly communicate what the role is and what the role is not. This can be problematic, especially when launching a new role that...
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In part one of this series, Systemic Approaches to School and District Transformation, I argued that we can avoid the Frankenstein’s Monster syndrome in school and district reform—parts may look ok but the whole is incoherent, producing inconsistent results—and that school transformation doesn’t occur in a vacuum. In this...
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The Keys to Achieving Success in School and District Transformation, Part 1 What does it really take to turn around a struggling school or school district? More than 15 years ago, Michael Fullan wrote in Phi Delta Kappan that “the main reason for the failure of these reforms to go to...
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Across the country, more districts and cities are declaring their intention to adopt and/or deepen their support for community schools as a way to bring additional resources into schools to support the health, mental health and social emotional goals of students. In Newark, NJ, for instance, the mayor has...
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Districts and schools across the country are working to promote deeper learning among students, which in many places requires a fundamental rethinking of school design. Making this shift can seem overwhelming, but several resources, including an example set by San Jose Unified School District, offer a solid place to...
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“Trying to walk down an escalator going up.” This is how an 18-year old Washington, DC student described his high school career that culminated this past spring—despite the odds—with him receiving his diploma. His was one of 29 high school seniors who spoke to C&J’s Marian Robinson (also an...
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This post appeared in the Huffington Post on July 28, 2015 as the second of two posts; for more on Anseye Pou Ayiti (Teach for Haiti) and Jean-Claude's formative educational experiences, read the first post: Anseye Pou Ayiti (Teach for Haiti) Partners with Teach for All to Launch Teacher...
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This article was distributed to the Leaders Leading Leaders Network in July 2015. Is the current focus of many districts’ reform efforts on principals as instructional leaders detrimental to the improvement of schools? Instructional leadership is a critical component of any effective school leader, but the all-encompassing focus on the...
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Provide great tools, partnership and training, and then get out of their way. When the Madison Metropolitan School District began an effort to overhaul teacher recruitment, screening and hiring, they had their work cut out for them. An internal assessment of the district’s human capital management practices by an advisory...
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By Christopher T. Cross
If we could redraw governance and management in service of children at the local level, what might it look like? We know that a majority of school children today come from low-income families, and we know that many of these children, along with their families, require additional supports if they...
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A growing number of districts across the country are starting to take a more systemic look at their use of time; the arbitrary constraint of the traditional 6-hour school day is being revisited to explore whether a longer school day could benefit some or all students. One of the...
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At what point does an effort to scale an effective education practice turn into a mandate? This question, I believe, strikes at the heart of education reform and suggests the cause of disappointing results for promising federal initiatives such as Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants. The driving force...
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In January, the Southern Education Foundation reported that a majority of the nation’s public school students come from low-income families – 51% is the national average with many states experiencing higher rates. The implications of educating a majority-poverty population are complex and are increasingly felt by teachers, principals, and...
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By Christopher T. Cross and Nancy Doorey
Earlier this month, the Wyoming legislature convened for its semi-annual session. Of the many important issues discussed, the most controversial may well have been whether to place the question of eliminating the elected chief state school officer on the 2016 general election ballot. The discussion was informed by a study...
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Watching the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers—now led by the great LeBron James—struggle early in the season got me thinking: What does it take for a group of great individual players, including one of the best players in history, to work together to become a championship team? And, what can schools...
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By Christopher T. Cross
The question remains: can one person, the Superhero Superintendent, save a struggling, broken school district or is she a mere mortal, destined to be defeated by a lack of systemic coherence? Back in 2008, I partnered with Susan Tave Zelman, former Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction and current Executive Director...
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While our national economy is showing many signs of recovery including higher job growth and lower unemployment, many state education budgets are still feeling the effects of the recent recession. A recent report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities provided the following sobering statistics. At least 35 states...
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