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Speck brings expertise in educational leadership

February 25, 2008

Marsha Speck, a nationally acclaimed leader in school reform, educational leadership, and professional development issues, has joined the faculty at Arizona State University’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership. She will serve as a clinical professor of Educational Leadership and coordinator of the college’s M.Ed. High School Leadership program.

Speck, who directed San Jose State University’s Urban High School Leadership master’s program for a decade (1998-2007), boasts a lifelong career in education that includes service as a teacher, high school principal, assistant superintendent of instruction, university professor and author of five books.

The High School Leadership degree program Speck will coordinate is the first in the state.

“Marsha Speck’s accomplishments in developing the Urban High School Leadership program at San Jose State are remarkable,” says Mari Koerner, dean of the College of Teacher Education and Leadership. “She began the program with a small grant from a business partner and has trained hundreds of educators in the Bay area to become leaders.

“Her expertise in reaching out and uniting the business community, the university, school district leaders, and others in the common cause of improving schools will advance the core mission of this college.”

Speck’s new program features 36 credit hours for a master’s in high school leadership and Arizona Principal Certification.It also offers to current M.Ed.’s 30 credit hours of certification-only coursework.

“The emphasis on high school leadership is new,” says Speck. “There is a lack of leadership at the high school level, and that’s nationally. What teaching candidates do you have ready to move into leadership roles in high school education?We will be creating a large pool of candidates who are familiar with the more complex issues and have a solid foundation in ways to improve high school administration.

“The program will help the districts and the region grow their own leaders.”

At San Jose State, Speck developed an innovative leadership development program linked through a partnership with regional school districts for teacher leaders and administrators to rethink the American high school and its ability to meet the needs of its students and the community.

In her role at ASU, Speck will bring to the classroom her belief in a continued partnership linkage between the university and the school community, which has been the focus of much of her work. She has already formed alliances with six local school districts: Buckeye UHSD, Deer Valley USD, Dysart USD, Glendale UHSD, Paradise Valley USD and Peoria USD.

“I have a passion for this,” she says. “I spent last spring making the contacts and the fall semester recruiting partners, and we have the foundation now for a program that will meet the need for exceptional leaders to lead complex high school reform. It will also address the emerging shortage of teacher leaders, assistant principals and principals.”

A unique element in Speck’s program is the application process, which requires the endorsement of the teacher’s school district.

“Current teachers apply to their district, which means the district knows and the high school principal knows of the teacher’s interest in becoming an educational leader. The principal, in turn, must send an endorsement letter to the college, supporting the individual’s application.

“It creates a wonderful partnership in which the successful applicant has the benefit of mentoring from district and school leadership, while the school leadership is the recipient of research and recommendations relative to his or her school through the projects our graduate students undertake. There is a valuable collaboration between a prospective educational leader and a current leader.”

Creating school learning communities and meaningful partnerships has been a central focus of Speck’s educational work.Her ASU leadership work – together in partnership with school districts – will strengthen the college’s collective educational work and programs in the community to improve student success and achievement.

“The partnerships we continue to build are focused on a working relationship together with schools and districts to develop leaders for our high schools,” says Speck. “Most leadership prep is done in isolation. This program is offered with the full support, cooperation, mentoring and collaboration of current leaders. It will provide an excellent laboratory for real-world problem-solving that will prepare teachers for leadership roles in a very effective way.”

Koerner says Speck’s approach and understanding of the complexities of high school leadership make her the ideal coordinator of the new program.

“High school leadership is uniquely challenging, and local superintendents have expressed their concern about diminishing pools of applicants for these critical positions,” says Koerner. “Marsha brings energy and enthusiasm for nurturing beginning leaders, and our decision to hire Marsha to do this important work has already borne fruit with over two dozen high school teachers enrolled in the program.”

In addition to her classroom work, Speck is widely published, authoring “Why Can’t We Get it Right? Designing High-Quality Professional Development for Standards-Based Schools,” “The Essential Questions and Practices in Professional Development,” “The Principal as Professional Development Leader,” “The Principalship: Building a Learning Community,” and “The Handbook for Implementing Year-Round Education in High School.” She is a past president of the National Association for Year-Round Education and currently serves on the Leadership Council/Legislative Committee of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She was recognized by San Jose State as a Teacher Scholar (1996-97) for contributions toward promoting the scholarship of teaching through her educational leadership focus.

As a Fullbright Scholar, Speck studied in India, Nigeria and Israel. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Davis; an M.A. from California State University, Stanislaus; and Ed.D. from the University of the Pacific.