Learning Leadership column, Nov./Dec. 2011 edition of eSchool News—On Nov. 14, the American Association of School Administrators moved offices from our current location in Arlington, Va., to a building in nearby Alexandria now occupied by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. We have purchased half of the building from NAESP, and the two organizations plan to occupy the space together.
This move is more than a mere change in facilities. It is, in essence, a process being engaged in by the two associations that might well serve as a model for other education organizations on how to survive and thrive during hard economic times.
The economic recession that came upon us three years ago has had a major impact on all businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit. The Washington, D.C. area, in addition to being the nation’s capital, is also home to more than 2,000 associations representing every conceivable interest. Many of these agencies have fallen upon hard times during the past three years.
One of those organizations is the Educational Research Service (ERS). Dating back to the 1930s, ERS was a part of the National Education Association’s research department. ERS went off on its own in 1973 with support from AASA, NAESP, and other administrative groups. For 38 years, ERS provided school districts and anyone interested in education-related research with valuable information that assisted in what we now refer to as data-driven decision making. Today, ERS is best known for its national survey of salaries and wages for public school employees. I refer to the document regularly when I field calls from reporters with questions regarding superintendent salaries.
Unfortunately, ERS fell prey to both the economy and the “Google” phenomenon. ERS derived most of its revenue from subscriptions purchased by institutions wanting to avail themselves of the reports it issued. As school systems made draconian cuts to their budgets, ERS subscriptions declined precipitously. Other ERS publications and services also were affected by today’s technology and the ability to get instant information on the internet. In an interview published in Education Week’s blog “Inside School Research,” ERS Chief Executive Officer John Draper is quoted as saying: “The whole information management system has changed. If you want to know something now, you go to Google and type it in; you don’t wait to see if a report is coming out next month.”
Over the years, we have seen how technology has affected companies that were not able to reinvent themselves. The print media have been hit particularly hard, and we have seen how many newspapers have gone out of business as advertising flees the printed page in favor of the electronic one. Sadly, ERS will be closing its doors this month after almost 40 years of operation. As chairman of the ERS board of directors, it has been my unpleasant duty to oversee, along with my colleagues on the board and Draper, the demise of this venerable organization.