The Opportunity for K-12 Students in Public Schools: Teaching Leadership via Cable in the Classroom and via the Internet

Concept Paper  by Herb Rubenstein
President and Founder, Growth Strategies Inc.


The focus today in K-12 education is reading, writing and arithmetic. Teaching to the “standard,” be it history, grammar, foreign languages, math or science is seen as the way to improve student test scores, the holy grail of measuring student performance and achievement.  The No Child Left Behind Act has guaranteed that this will be the approach for the next decade.

This approach is as strong on content as it is weak on “context.”  Teachers when I was in K-12 spent significant and enormous energy on teaching students why it was important for them to learn.  Although the word “leadership” was not often used especially in the 60’s when I was in the K-6 levels, by the time I reached high school in the late 60’s each student at C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana was taught the importance of learning enough to be a leader, to be able to influence, if not control, your own destiny and to be knowledgeable enough to make the right decisions to lead your own life and use your leadership skills to contribute to others.  The context for learning was forcefully and effectively made and student performance in that school reflected the success of creating, teaching and instilling this leadership context into the student body.

Today, through the use of technology, leadership can be taught to K-12 students.  Since teachers of all subjects have almost universally not received leadership development training, they are not capable of teaching leadership to K-12 students.  The time is right with Leadership High Schools opening up in Chicago and San Francisco and other major cities and the bottom falling out in our public schools of giving students the right context for learning.

The Proposal

I propose the creation of a series of courses in leadership to be delivered to K-12 students via the internet, cable in the classroom and other approaches that could include, if funding were available, workbooks, an interactive website and other supportive educational media.  I am aware of a foundation already creating film clips of students in the K-12 range discussing their “leadership experiences.”  I will draw from a large body of developing leadership, teaching approaches, multi-media technologies and content in developing these courses.  These courses will be equally suitable for use in public schools, private schools, home schooling and other learning environments (libraries, community centers, recreation centers like the Boys and Girls Clubs where I formerly served as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

A children’s version of my upcoming book:  The Leadership Era: The Handbook for Defining Your Role in the 21st Century could serve as an online or paper text book for this course.  My first book, Breakthrough, Inc.: High Growth Strategies for Entrepreneurial Organizations, published by Financial Times/Prentice Hall is now available on line through a unique arrangement with the publishers.

As the person who raised most of the $50,000 to fund cable TV in the new Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland in the late 1990′s, as a Member of the Board of Directors of the International Leadership Association and Co-Chair of its 2004 Annual Conference on “Improving Leadership Around the World,” I am uniquely qualified to build this course.  I have built other online courses on leadership and boards of directors and am currently in negotiation with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy about building a first of its kind leadership development course for lawyers.  I have written nearly 30 articles on leadership and spoken to hundreds of audiences on the topic.

Budget and Timeline

At this concept stage, I have not prepared a budget or timeline for this project.  The goal would be to work intensely and make these courses available for the 2005-2006 school year.  I expect that the age grouping for the courses would require that a course be built for 1st and 2nd graders, a separate course for 3rd and 4th graders, for 5th through 8th graders, and two courses for high schoolers, one or 9th and 10th graders and one for 11th and 12th graders.  While some of the content will overlap, each age cohort will require customization in the course.

We can include online tests, online or paper handbooks and can help students create paper and online journals where they can track their “leadership experiences.”


The public school systems and the 1.5 million children in home schooling can not learn the leadership lessons they need to learn to be effective learners, effective citizens and lead effectively.  Only through the world of modern philanthropy can such a series of courses be built.  While they may be some business model that allows these courses to generate revenue, the best distribution system for these courses will be a blend of books, supportive materials, film, internet, DVD, CD and using all available technology tools to promote a wide distribution.

These courses would first be built in English, but there are many other languages and many other “cultures” that would benefit greatly from these types of courses.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on this concept paper for leadership courses for our K-12 students.


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Are Schools Really A “National Security Threat”

The recent Klein/Rice Panel on Education concluded in March, 2012 that our Pre K – 12 schools are so bad, they are a national security threat. Do you think this is so?

Also, what do you recommend that we do about this?  Our nonprofit organization, THE LEEEGH, now has 19 courses to offer to train teachers and principals, plus all staff at Pre K – 12 schools to help them meet the new demands on educators.  Please see:


Herb Rubenstein, Founder and Executive Director, THE LEEEGH, INC.

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Responding Intelligently To The Cheating Scandals

Pre-K – 12 education in the United States is under attack from many fronts.  Budgets are being cut across the nation.  Teacher turnover and teacher cutbacks are on the rise.  Class sizes are getting larger. Standardized tests are changing the way we teach and the way we pay teachers.  And now, our school systems are being attacked from within with the largest ethical scandals ever witnessed in our nation’s education history.  Up to a dozen school districts are now under investigation for changing test scores and cheating.  Schools in Alabama and in other states have stopped giving homework because cheating by students is so pervasive on homework and teachers say they do not have time to grade the homework and give feedback to students.

USA Today and other major newspapers have run editorials on the subject of cheating on standardized test scores.  Some have blamed the new emphasis on standardized test scores as the “cause” of the cheating. Some have defended this new emphasis on test scores as the only way to hold schools accountable.  These editorials fall into the deflect and defend categories and simply do not address the current situation.

We know how to respond intelligently to the cheating that seems to be pervasive across the United States in Prek-12 education.  This is a problem of ethical leadership and we need to address it with a significant change in the organizational structure of each and every school district in the United States. Ethical lapses are not new to business, to government or to education.

In order to address the issue of cheating on standardized tests and ethical lapses, the first major response of every school district, whether it is currently embroiled in a cheating scandal or investigation or not, should be to create a new, powerful position called The Chief Ethics Officer. This office would have strong investigatory powers, an independent budget to pursue all claims of cheating, and have a hotline where anyone could report ethical lapses in a school district without fear of retaliation.  This Chief Ethics Officer would report to the School Superintendant but would have a set contract and not serve as the pleasure of the School Superintendent.  This officer would have sufficient staff to conduct investigations, hold hearings under oath, have subpoena power for all school records, and have the authority to refer any ethical lapse that rises to criminal conduct to the FBI or other criminal justice agencies.

As the Chief Ethics Officer role grows in education, then we will have true accountability in schools.  The Chief Ethics Officer would set policy, have the power to recommend rescinding teacher certifications, have the authority to recommend the firing of administrators and teachers who are involved in cheating, and the jurisdiction of the Chief Ethics Officer would extend to students who cheat or commit ethical lapses that require a significant response.

Over time, school districts of significant size, should develop an Office Of Inspector General, to handle the heavy workload, set administrative policies, and implement the rigorous work of eliminating corruption, cheating and improving the ethical foundation of our public educational systems.  In addition, private and religious schools in the Prek-12 arena should also consider instituting the reforms outlined above.

Reforming education can never succeed unless and until we schools and school districts get their ethical house in order.  It is clear that cheating and unethical behavior are at an epidemic level in the United States and problems of that magnitude need a swift and lasting organizational response.

There is much at stake.  The intersection of our educational systems and our criminal justice system is the result of failures of ethical leadership and the failure of school districts to have the proper organizational structure to fend off and deal effectively with these ethical lapses.  The Chief Ethics Officer in each school district will be able to create the ethical culture in our schools which is necessary for their future success.  The Office of Inspector General for each large school district is essential to serve as the force that roots out cheating and unethical behavior in our schools.

The time is now for these institutional changes to take place.  The reputation of our schools and their very ability to produce the educational gains we need as a society are now at risk.  This is a risk our nation cannot afford and even with budget cuts to education, spending the money on these new positions and these new offices represent a necessary strategic imperative for  our schools.

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Cheating: A Failure of Ethical Leadership in Education

Ethical leadership has been legislated in the business sector and is enforced by numerous government agencies.  But what about ethical lapses in education. And, for that matter, what about criminal activity by teachers and principals – how do we deal with this?

New revelations about 178 teachers and principals participating in a massive cheating ring to change answers on standardized test scores in the Atlanta area raise grave questions about leadership in the PreK-12 education in the United States.  How widespread is organized cheating on standardized tests in our educational system and how do we find out?  Should performance audits be required?  This issue will not go away.

Teachers are leaders and they, not principals nor administrators, even if they ordered this cheating, are responsible themselves for their own actions.  What do we do as a society to stop this cheating because its harm to our educational system is huge now and will only get larger in the future.


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Why Are Teachers Not Trained in Leadership?

We ask this question because clearly many of the job duties of a teacher are leadership duties and require leadership competencies.  We are dumbfounded that so few teachers are trained in leadership either in their training to become a teachers or in professional development courses after they are certified.  We have started this blog thread to ask sincerely why you believe teachers do not receive leadership training.  Librarians must take a leadership course to receive a Master’s in Library Science, but teachers have no such requirement.  We hope you will shed light on this important question with your comments?

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It is not Teachers VS. Principals:

Everyone in education has witnessed wars between teachers and principals.  Sometimes teachers are right.  Sometimes principals are right.  However, whenever a teacher and a principal go to war, the students and education in general, becomes the biggest loser.  We are now training teachers, and soon will be training, principals in leadership.  We show all educators when to collaborate and when to rely on an expert to deliver a technical solution to a problem best approached from the point of expertise, and not collaboration by nonexperts.  Teachers are leaders and if there is a principal who thinks that he or she can treat teachers as mere followers or order takers, and not as leaders in their own right, then this principal will be in for a rude awakening as our schools become more transparent.  In the future any teacher vs. principal battle will be fought out on the pages of facebook, the tweets of twitter, the videos of youtube, and the discussion groups of linked-in.  What used to happen outside of public view in schools will now become quite public, and wikileaks will not be to blame.  We train teachers and principals to treat each other as leaders and we believe the future of PreK-12 education depends on it.

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Why Can’t Teachers Delegate?

Every time we train teachers in leadership, we find that teachers are not trained in the art of delegation.  Cynics might think that teachers are at the bottom of the totem pole in education and they have no one to  whom to delegate, but they are wrong.  There are many opportunities that teachers have to delegate, but they just don’t have the training or the leadership confidence to make the effort to delegate many of the tasks they do that could be done equally well by others who want to support teachers.  In our leadership training of teachers, we use a new phrase that we believe has never been used in education by a teacher. It is: Ask not what you can do for others. Ask what others can do for you so you can do more for others.  Teachers will always give back 100% of what they have to offer students, their school and education.  The more teachers can learn to invite others to help them, and manage them effectively, which are leadership skills, the better the teacher’s life will be and we believe the better student outcomes will be.

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Teachers Are Leaders:

Going back to Robert Fox’s seminal article in 1956, Teaching Is Leadership, it is clear that we have come a long way in education and in the wrong direction.  In 2011 teachers are not viewed in the profession, by themselves, by their principals, and by many key stakeholders in education as “leaders.”  Teachers are not factory workers who best follow orders to produce flawless goods. Teachers are not functionaries who merely deliver someone else’s pre-designed curricula.  Teachers are not order takers.  Teachers are not merely followers of school administrators.  Teachers are leaders.  However, if we had listened to Robert Fox in 1956 by now we would have developed a strong stable of leadership courses for teachers as they are being trained to become teachers.  Or, we would have developed a strong stable of professional development courses for teachers in the area of leadership development and certified these courses for continuing education credit.  We have done neither on the scale needed to give teachers the skills they need to be the leaders their jobs call upon them to be.  Our book, Leadership Development for Educators, is a start in the right direction, but with 3.7 million PreK-12 teachers, we need to gather every resource we can to fill this huge hole in teacher training.

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Teachers are School Site Leaders, Too!

I agree with much of Frederick Brown’s blog submission on leadership improvements needed in schools (February 9, 2011, Learning Forward, However, I do want to add that principals are not the only “school site leaders.”  In our book Leadership Development for Educators we have re-started a trend, started in 1956, that views teachers as leaders.  Teachers need to be trained in leadership development.  Teachers are leaders in their classrooms, in their relations with parents, in their relations with their students, and in relation to their schools.  We have relied for far too long n “principals” as the only bona fide leaders in the schools.  Modern business, the military, the universities, and even the Boy Scouts all follow the belief that they succeed because of leaders at every level.  Until we begin to treat teachers as leaders and train teachers in leadership development, we are shortchanging schools, students, parents, and most of all, teachers.

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