Joshua Starr (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, Starr tweeted 29 times, and retweeted three other tweets. True, it was one of his busier days on Twitter, but he tweets every day, clearly seeing social media as a way to reach the public.

He’s not the only superintendent on Twitter. (You can see a partial list at Dorie Turner Nolt’s Twitter page, here,) The August editions of the magazine School Administrator, the publication of the American Association of School Administrators, included an article titled “What Superintendents Can Learn From Twitter,” which says, “Twitter is helping superintendents overcome the isolation of the office.”

The article says this about Starr:

Joshua Starr (@mcpssuper), superintendent of 147,000-student Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools, uses Twitter each day to promote best teaching practices.

“If I am visiting a school and see a powerful lesson or an effective teaching strategy, I can take a picture and send out a Tweet,” says Starr. “It takes 30 seconds and not only lets people know I’m visiting schools, but gives them a glimpse into my educational philosophy and what I value in teaching and learning.”

Starr uses Twitter to send messages about school visits — “Kindergarteners at Sally Ride ES taught me the Itsy bitsy spider” — but more broadly interesting are his tweets about school reform. Starr is skeptical of many of the basic principles of modern school reform, including evaluating teachers by student standardized test scores, and is becoming a leading voice in this regard.

Here are a few of his tweets from Tuesday alone that reflect his sentiments:

— How to Fix the Schools work is too complex for easy fixes. requires everyone’s best thinking rather than easy polemics.

— @ValaAfshar: best way to improve the customer experience is to improve the employee experience. Same for tchrs and stdts too. @DanielPink

— Dick Marriott “if you keep employees happy you keep the customer happy” @ValaAfshar Lets keep teachers happy they’ll keep kids happy

— And here’s one of Starr’s retweets, originally written by Sam Chaltain @samchaltain

People: big difference b/t critiquing teacher evals that = effectiveness w test scores & saying there’s “no way” to measure effectiveness.

A few days earlier, on Sept. 16th, a Sunday, Starr tweeted four times, including this one:

— Are We Asking Too Much From Our Teachers? we have to resist focus on individual teachers rather than the system.

Starr is in his second year as superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, and is establishing himself as a thoughtful critic of school reform. Earlier this year he told my colleague Michael Chandler in this story:

“As we have become increasingly focused on rigid conceptions of what success is — that are directly aligned to standardized tests . . . are we missing something? Have we lost something? I think we have,” Starr said at a May forum at Walt Whitman High School about the importance of social and emotional learning.

That message is coming through in his tweets.


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