Seattle Schools Superintendent Finalist: Dr. Andre Spencer

Dr. Spencer is currently working as the Superintendent for Colorado Springs Harrison District #2.  He has been in that position since 2013. Harrison District 2  is about 12,000 students in 26 schools that include a youth detention center and four charter schools. Previously he was area superintendent in Houston. In his early career, he was a (science) teacher and principal in Baltimore. He won a PTA Teacher of the Year award from the Baltimore City Council. He has a Master's in Biology, and received his PhD in Education from Capella University. He served in the U.S. Army for 4 years. He is African-American.

Accomplishments from his district's website lists include:

-"improvements in academic achievement by being recognized as one district who has closed the racial achievement gap in the State of Colorado"

-"increases in advance placement course offerings and examination pass rate"

-"improvements in graduation rate"

-"improvements in educational technology"

This in a district that has a very high number of free/reduced lunch students (and per usual, the charter school rate is far lower than the traditional schools).

He has attended at least three superintendent programs including the Broad Academy (you might recall the late Maria Goodloe-Johnson also came out of it). He also appears to have been in Teach for America.

He appears to be a firm believer in data usage including test scores for teacher evaluation. His district's new strategic plan includes personalized learning as a key component.

From his bio:

As superintendent, Andre has implemented the following educational initiatives: 1.) world-class common core state standards-based curriculums to improve instruction and student achievement; 2.) extended learning opportunities; 3.) mathematics tutors to support interventions; 4.) early college program; 5.) dropout and credit recovery program; 6.) one-to-one technology program; 7.) technology infrastructure to support wireless accessibility district-wide; and 8.) free breakfast, lunch and dinner program district-wide. As outlined in Harrison’s “Mission Possible 2017 Strategic Plan,” Andre is moving Harrison from “GOOD 2 GREAT.”

Some additional accomplishments Andre has made since being in Harrison are: Training for National Superintendent Certification with AASA: The School Superintendents Association and presenting at the National Alliance of Black School Educators Aspiring Superintendents Institute. He is also serving on the board for the Boys & Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region, Joint Initiatives, Colorado Springs Homeless Initiative and Pikes Peak Community College Foundation.


Anonymous said…
Interesting workshop by Dr. Spencer at a conference. Worth learning more about their approach, for sure.

"Promoting Equitable Opportunities for a Culturally Diverse Gifted and Talented Program"

In this conversational session, educators will learn how a universally
designed screening process for gifted and talented scholars has
drastically increased diversity in Harrison School District Two’s GT
programs. With an increase in identification of over 6% for AfricanAmerican
and Hispanic scholars, the universal screening program has
enabled total selection of minority students that adequately represents
our district. With more than 70% of scholars from diverse backgrounds
and receiving free and reduced meals, Harrison School District Two
HSD2 is providing equitable opportunities to access highly rigorous
gifted and talented programs. Educators and administrators will leave
with practical ideas and strategies on how to create equitable screening
programs that promote equitable opportunities for diverse populations.

first look
PAA Member said…
It is time for Seattle Residents to become educated about the Broad Academy. Andre Spencer has ties to the Broad Academy:

The Broad Academy invests in Teach for America and promotes charter schools. This candidate should not have made it into the top 3. Here is an article about the Seattle and the Broad Foundation:
Anonymous said…
Dr. Spencer attended the pro-charter school "National School Choice Week" earlier this month:

He also co-wrote an article touting a merit pay program in his district:

Superintendents trained by the Broad Academy specialize in using test scores to close down schools, often in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty and in communities of color.

Joe Thursday
Sarajane Siegfriedt said…
"Capella University is a for-profit, online institution of higher learning headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The school is owned by the publicly traded Capella Education Company and delivers most of its education online." Wikipedia
In other words, he bought his Ph.D.
Simon said…
@ First Look

Improving equity in highly capable programs is not rocket science; Seattle Public Schools and the current superintendent have known for years what they must do (universal testing in 2nd and one other grade, no weekend testing, multiple avenues for qualification, no disqualification for one or some low scores, appropriate testing options for ESL learners, professional development in gifted ed for teachers and principals). Some of these things were passed into law this past legislative session, in fact, so the new superintendent will have no choice but to do these things Mr. Nyland has refused to do.
Anton said…
In Houston he was a "the school improvement officer of elementary schools" where he oversaw 14 schools. This is being called a "regional superintendent" position but it seems like maybe equivalent to an executive director in SPS? In Baltimore he was an "area support superintendent." Both of those make it sound like superintendent roles, but those were pretty small positions compared to the size/scope of our job.

He was considered for positions in Cincinnati, OH, and Rochester, NY, but lost out both times.

I'm skeptical.
Jet City mom said…
For profit degrees not withstanding, if Mr Spencer can’t manage a tiny district, how will he function in Seattle?
PAA Member said…
"Since 2009, Teach For America corps members in Colorado Springs have served a highly diverse student population with the majority teaching in Harrison School District Two."
Unknown said…
Why do the posts about the female candidates call out their age but this one about a male does not?

Feeling Unequal
Anonymous said…
Spencer's current district seems pretty small compared to SPS, but about the same total enrollment as Marysville, Nyland's previous employer.

Harrison School District 2 has 3 IB schools - one each at elementary, middle, and high school - with the MS and HS being "candidate schools," or in the process of becoming authorized by IB.

(This must be a typo, as the one IB high school is called "International Bachelorette Candidate School (Harrison High School)." I'm trying to imagine an International Bachelorette school...)

Eric B said…
"I'm trying to imagine an International Bachelorette school..."

[shudder] I guess the typos in SPS district communications could be worse.
I thought I had included his age; he is about 47.
alex said…
I am learning more about the Broad Academy, and it sounds not good. And this has nothing to do with Dr. Spencer's candidacy, but I do question the consistently anti-Teach for America sentiment on this blog.

I was a TFA teacher in the 90s, and I am no cheerleader for TFA, believe me. I just question where the anti-TFA sentiment comes from here, and would welcome a discussion of it at some point. TFA teachers never took jobs from certified personnel, at least not while I was part of TFA. And, in low-performing schools (I taught in two in New Orleans & Los Angeles) TFA teachers were consistently among the most dedicated and hard working in the building. Like, by a long shot. TFA is not anti-union. I was a union member in both districts, and happily paid my dues. The teacher preparation is not sufficient, not by a long shot. But there are a lot of crappy teacher prep programs out there, let's be honest. But, as a parent, I would have preferred a TFA teacher for my kid than the vast majority of old guard, couldn't wait to retire teachers, that I taught with for many years.

What's with the anti-TFA sentiment here? I am open to discussion of pros & cons, believe me, but I think some of the swipes are not grounded in reality, which is that a lot of TFA teachers are good, or even very good, and a lot of districts don't have enough teachers, so they are only filling positions that are not filled & would otherwise be filled by subs. What gives?
Alex, we have discussed TFA and I wrote an article about it that was published in Crosscut.

I'm not sure where you got your information on TFA taking certified teacher jobs but they certainly upended the teaching corps in New Orleans and led to fewer - not more - teachers of color. That is documented.

Most of TFA teachers are, as you probably know, in charters schools and therefore, not union. Doesn't mean they are anti-union but that's the choice they made to be in a school that doesn't allow it.

Crappy teacher programs? Maybe but 5 weeks of training is not even a program. It's summer school.

I'm sorry you have such a low opinion of so many veteran teachers.

But I'm not having some discussion here about TFA; we done that and we don't need it here in Seattle especially not in SPS.
alex said…
I will read your article. I never suggested there should be TFA in Seattle. A lot of things happened in New Orleans post Katrina that changed the racial dynamics of the Orleans parish schools. Can’t blame TFA for a lot of that.

And I speak from personal experience about the teachers at the schools I taught in. the teachers in the school I worked in in New Orleans Regularly hot kids, verbally abused them, made then copy from dictionaries and let them watch videos for hours. That was the reality, and no TFA teacher did those things. That is not a condemnation of all teachers by any means. But that is the reality of what i experienced in New Orleans, and to a lesser extent in LA, like it or not. This is not a broadside of teachers in general, but it’s why I will defend aspects of TFA and these facts get glossed over in many criticisms of TFA.
I suspect you do want TFA in Seattle ( or why bring it up)?

Nonetheless, no a topic of real interest here.
Anonymous said…
Melissa - What was it in your research that let you know that he supports evaluating teachers based on test scores? Not something I'd want to see happen.

alex said…
No. I don’t. I haven’t had anything to do with TFA in 20 years. I see no need for TFA in Seattle. As a frequent commenter, I would have thought you would take my comments at face value, and not question my motives, but no. I brought it up here bc it seems that Broad Academy & TFA are being wrapped up together, in criticism of Dr. Spencer, and I am interested in discussing that. So sorry it’s not of interest here.
PAA Member said…
Eli Broad, Alice Walton (Walmart owner) and Gates are the wealthy individuals behind the effort to privatize education.

Charter schools and TFA go hand in hand. Charter schools frequently hire TfA.

Let's not aspire to TfA. I much prefer Seattle's Teacher Residency program. Teachers receive training and mentorship, and they commit to teaching in high poverty schools for 5 years.
Anonymous said…
@ Curious, this article might answer your question re: Spencer evaluating teachers based on test scores.

Early on it says: "We tied the evaluation and compensation system to what the organization values most: effective classroom instruction tied to student achievement results. We replaced the traditional salary schedule with nine effectiveness levels. Each effectiveness level is earned by an equal weight of educator performance and their students’ academic achievement."

first look
Anonymous said…
@ I'm Skeptical-"Both of those make it sound like superintendent roles, but those were pretty small positions compared to the size/scope of our job." I agree with you.
@First look- Too often the hot button political "topic of the moment" drives/dominates discourse entirely, when it should not, in making important decisions. A great superintendent will be needed to manage this large complex district that actually has many pressing issues. A great superintendent can assimilate best practices of what works as far as racial AND socioeconomic (also important) diversification for identification of gifted and talented students. But they have to be very strong in management skills and many other areas to do well for this district.
Another opinion

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