Five Questions with Scholastic Education's Chief Academic Officer
Earlier this week, Scholastic Education announced that Michael Haggen would be the organization's new Chief Academic Officer. Michael has more than 20 years of academic experience, having served as a teacher, principal, chief academic officer and direct report to superintendents in three school districts.
Prior to joining Scholastic, he served as Deputy Superintendent in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, driving significant change that included leading efforts which ultimately yielded increases in academic performance. In St. Louis Public Schools, he developed and implemented a turnaround model for 11 schools, which led to that system's first provisional accreditation in more than a decade. As Deputy Superintendent of New Orleans’ Recovery School District, Michael led the system-wide organization of an integrated learning supports program, designed to remove barriers to learning for students, including those returning home post-Hurricane Katrina. He also managed the district’s family and community engagement and extended day programs, as well as volunteer and donation initiatives.
Look for posts written by Michael here in the future!
1) What does Scholastic Education’s CAO do?
MH: My job is to ensure that Scholastic Education supports educators to the best of its ability and helps them improve student learning and instruction. We have a focus on instructional materials for literacy achievement, professional learning for teacher effectiveness, family and community engagement initiatives, and consulting services designed to strengthen integrated systems of learning supports – so my role is to act as a guide and lead advisor.
2) What’s your story behind how and why you became a teacher?
MH: As a small enterprise development agent with the United States Peace Corps I taught numeracy to Senagalese nationals in small villages. I got my degree in finance and economics, but teaching became a personal mission and calling to model for other inner city students that we could use education to accomplish our dreams and succeed despite the obstacles in front of us.
3) You’ve worn so many hats as an educator – from teacher to principal to deputy superintendent and beyond. What challenge are you most proud of overcoming?
MH: It was a great challenge teaching in Detroit in the mid-90s, especially while getting my masters in education. I’m most proud of being honored as a highly effective teacher in Detroit by my students. My students taught me how to teach, how to listen to their language and to the strengths they brought to the classroom.
4) You were the deputy superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans in the years after Katrina. How did that time shape you as a professional?
MH: The challenges facing the education system in New Orleans after Katrina were arguably the most intense in the history of education in the United States. The strength, tenacity and deep commitment of New Orleanians to rebuild against all odds and demand what was best for their children inspired me even more deeply to support those children with the highest needs. I knew it was critical that all children had access to quality books, and the ideal of education equity guides me now to meeting with districts and schools across the country to help them expose children to authentic text and teachers to rich educational practices. During my time in New Orleans, I learned from the students and families about the importance of putting learning supports in place and truly engaging families in the education journey. When moving on to St. Louis and Baton Rouge, I knew the importance of bringing the unions, teachers, administrators, families and, most importantly, students to the table. I took pride in spending each day in the classrooms as deputy superintendent, learning from students and teachers and sharing best practices.
5) In your role, you speak with school leaders across the country. What’s keeping them up at night?
MH: Superintendents and school leaders are focusing on building capacity (expertise) with their district and school coaches, teachers and principals around professional learning. Leaders are looking for ways to increase teacher effectiveness and student learning. Supporting English language learners with rich selections of materials and teachers with not only resources, but also the skills to teach them. Our great thought leaders are looking at ways to close the gaps of equity and access for students. When students have access to high quality books and highly effective teaching, the achievement gaps for traditionally low performing sub groups can truly begin to close.