A state superintendent is an elected U.S. official who oversees the administration of all instructional and business operations of a state's education system. The superintendent is generally a former educator, and has served in some sort of administrative role at the county or local level. The position's specific responsibilities, and even the name itself, varies among states.
A state superintendent usually serves a term of four years. Though state superintendent is an elected role, the position is usually considered a nonpolitical one, and candidates in many states run without an affiliation to a specific political party. While each state has a state superintendent, the official title of the position may vary among states. Some examples include state superintendent of schools (Georgia), state superintendent of public instruction (California, Idaho, Wisconsin) and state superintendent of education (Washington D.C.).
The primary goal of state superintendents is to manage a successful public school system. As a result, he or she serves educators, students, government officials, families and other community members.
In serving their constituents, superintendents have a variety of responsibilities. One major responsibility is his or her role in creating, changing and implementing education standards for the entire state. Working with the state's Department of Education, a state superintendent is expected to help improve student achievement and improve standardized test scores.
In addition to managing educational standards and standardized tests, superintendents act as the primary spokespeople for their state's public schools. They direct the education policy followed by local school districts, ensuring that schools comply with policies and procedures established by the state's Board of Education and the federal Department of Education.
Since the public school system in the US is generally diverse, each state superintendents often must address issues of equity and access. Issues that may arise include closing achievement gaps between racial and socioeconomic groups, ensuring the success of school lunch and nutrition programs, and providing for an equitable distribution of funds. Along with achieving these individual equity-based goals, superintendents must adhere to state and federal legislation on the matter, such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Superindendents are also fund raisers. When funding for the public school system is inefficient, the state superintendent is charged with confronting issues such as deferred building maintenance, program and staffing cuts, delayed technology purchases and higher student fees. Other common issues dealt with by school superintendents include school safety, teacher recruitment and retainment, the implementation of technology, and effective communication between the home, school, district, county and state.
Running an entire state's school system is a large and complicated task. People skills, organizational skills and general business acumen are necessary traits in a successful state superintendent.