What makes her most interesting is this:
The first-time superintendent is engaged in a bold move to change the teaching culture in a district that has already gained a reputation for excellence, with all five of its high schools regularly winning national acclaim.
But it's that very reputation, the school board believes, that has masked an important failure: reaching students at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in a district that's far more diverse than many may realize.
Cudeiro believes a philosophy she honed over eight years of consulting work could close the divide.
Her predecessor created a standardized curriculum, making sure that all schools were teaching the same material, to try to close the academic divide. Cudeiro is moving the district's 27 schools in a slightly different direction; she wants to open up the classroom, giving teachers a chance to learn from one another, and to give them the freedom to deviate from the standard curriculum if a different lesson will work better.
An important part of her philosophy is getting teachers to use "differentiated instruction" — a kind of classroom juggling act in which a teacher uses different methods to reach students who are struggling, while also challenging the brightest.
In previous years, "teachers went to high-quality training, but the focus was on improving the individual," Cudeiro said. "We are not wanting islands of excellence. Let's open up the classroom practice, so everybody's seeing good models."
Let teachers deviate off the standard curriculum? Heresay. Differentiating curriculum so you reach everyone in the class? You don't say.
She's also for merit-pay.
From the article:
Tyee Middle School teacher Benjamin Evans served last year on a school leadership team and came away believing Cudeiro's ideas can make a difference.
"You get a lot of references to drinking the Kool-Aid" from other teachers, Evans said. "And I understand that — teachers are a pretty independent bunch."
But Cudeiro's methods are "the strongest, most organized and pointed initiative I've seen," the eight-year teaching veteran said. "This is a process I see as helping me."
Last year, as part of the process, Evans — a Spanish teacher — shared ideas with a language-arts teacher and, based on her methods, decided to do a "vocabulary inventory," informally testing his second-year students to see if they knew the definitions of common words and grammatical terms. To his surprise, they stumbled over common words.
So Evans began emphasizing the meanings of common words in class, and did a "word wall" that outlined important words and their uses. The idea also fit into an overarching goal at Tyee to help students learn "academic vocabulary" — key terms they need to know in any subject in order to gain a deeper understanding of the content.
That academic vocabulary sounds like a great idea to help kids start with a solid foundation so they don't get lost (and turn off later on when they can't follow the discussion).
She sure is a different superintendent than Mike Riley, the late superintendent who came before her.
Riley tried to tackle the achievement gap by creating a Web-based common curriculum for six core subjects. But the standardized curriculum may have helped push a dissatisfied teaching staff to go on strike in 2008, a year after Riley left.
"Don't be boxed in by the common curriculum," Cudeiro tells principals and teachers, encouraging them to use their own lesson ideas instead, or come up with new ones.
Bellevue's schools have long marched in unison to ideas developed in the central office, so for some teachers, the formation of school-based leadership teams is welcome.
"It's a system that recognizes not all schools in the district are the same," said Barbara Velategui, a 40-year teaching veteran who teaches health and AIDS education at Newport High, and serves on the school's new leadership team.
"The concept is very exciting to me," she said. "It's been a very long time since the expertise of the staff has been recognized."
Well, there's certainly a contrast between Seattle and Bellevue and it will be fascinating to see who does better. (Yes, I realize Bellevue is much smaller but it does have a fairly diverse population.)