Superintendent of Schools
Arlene C. Ackerman, Ed. D.
Dr. Arlene C. Ackerman, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia since June 2008, has spent her entire career as a fearless advocate for children and is a national expert in raising student achievement and closing the achievement gap in large, urban school districts. Dr. Ackerman brings nearly 40 years of expertise as a career educator to Philadelphia and has an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and experience as a successful urban superintendent. Dr. Ackerman has led school reform movements in San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle, and now Philadelphia.
Dr. Ackerman came to the District from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she held the Christian A. Johnson Endowed Chair in Outstanding Educational Practice and served as Professor and Director of the Urban Education Leaders Program, the college’s largest doctoral program for public school leaders from 2006-2008. Before 2006, Dr. Ackerman held several high-level school district leadership positions.
For five years, Dr. Ackerman was superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District and is credited for transforming the district into an exemplary school system for all children by achieving sustained academic improvement over a five-year period. During that time, 86% of San Francisco’s under-performing schools made continuing progress for three consecutive years. In addition, all ethnicities and all groups, including special education, gifted, and English Language Learner students, demonstrated gains on California’s mandated tests. From 2004 through 2006, San Francisco was recognized as the top-performing urban school district in the state of California.
Prior to that appointment, Dr. Ackerman was CEO/Superintendent of Schools and Chief Academic Officer for the District of Columbia. She arrived in the District in 1997, not long after the Control Board released its monumental 1996 report: Children in Crisis: A Report on the Failure of D.C.'s Public Schools. Under her leadership as Chief Academic officer and later as Superintendent, the D.C. Public Schools made tremendous strides; thus, the District’s reputation and reality justifiably shifted from crisis to promise.
Dr. Ackerman’s other work experiences include classroom teacher at both the elementary and middle school levels; principal at the middle school level; Director, Upward Bound Program for first generation college-bound students; Director, Basic Skills Academy for At-Risk High School Youth; Assistant Superintendent for Special Services, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Academic Achievement, and Deputy Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer.
Dr. Ackerman currently serves on the Board of Trustees for The Franklin Institute and the College Board. She is a Senior Advisor for the District Management Council, the nation’s premier network of public school leaders. Dr. Ackerman is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross, Project GRAD, and the Los Angeles-based Broad Center that works to recruit, train, and develop urban school district leaders. In addition to being a graduate of Harvard University’s Urban Superintendent’s Program, Dr. Ackerman is now an Advisory Panel member for the program. Dr. Ackerman also serves on the Board of Trustees for her church, Bright Hope Baptist, in north Philadelphia.
Dr. Ackerman holds a Doctorate and Master’s Degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, a Master’s Degree in Education Administration and Policy from Washington University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Harris Stowe State College.