Skip to content

A Molly Horstman Update

September 18, 2015

Molly Horstman was the Teach for America (TFA) hire in the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) who was labeled “director” of the high-stakes, ever-changing, waste-of-time ersatz “teacher evaluation system,” COMPASS, in 2012.

molly horstman  Molly Horstman

She left the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) in 2013, and given that TFA status tends to usher one from one soft career landing to another, I thought I would see where she has ended up. The fact that she has no notable training or experience to recommend her to another high position is irrelevant in the well-financed and -connected world of TFA-friendly corporate ed reform.

Nevertheless, a Google search of Horstman yielded nothing in the last couple of years.

But before proceeding with current Horstman, let’s relive some of that Horstman-centered drama from 2012-13, when the proverbial poop and fan met as her name became associated with “director of COMPASS”:

Here is Horstman’s professional bio, as taken from this National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality September 2012 conference bio (the topic being “Systems that Last: Great Teachers and Leaders for America’s Schools”). Horstman’s info is under the heading, “Presenter Bios”:

Molly Horstman serves as the director of Compass at the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and has worked on the development, testing, refinement, and implementation of the state’s new support and evaluation system for teachers and leaders for the past two years. Prior to joining LDOE, she worked at the Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans, teaching for two years at Sarah T. Reed Elementary as a Teach for America corps member, and subsequently working in Human Resources at the RSD Central Office. Horstman holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Barnard College and is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. [Emphasis added.]

There you have it: Molly Horstman, poli-sci grad with two years of temp teaching, clearly promoted as “the director of COMPASS” at a professional conference at which she represented LDOE.

Horstman was also identified as “Compass Director, Louisiana Department of Education” for a June 2012 Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest conference.

Add to the Horstman story that her temp teaching certificate expired before she would have needed any formal evaluation.

Yep. Molly Horstman, who graduated in 2007 and did TFA temp teaching from around 2008-10 did not remain in the classroom long enough to be formally evaluated but in 2012 was the director of teacher evaluation for the entire state of Louisiana.

Only in a TFA-catapulted-into-leadership world.

Horstman and her TFA-alum boss, Louisiana superintendent John White, caught flack for this in a number of public venues, including Diane Ravitch’s blog in October 2012. An excerpt:

John White, the State Commissioner of Education in Louisiana, has low regard for experience. After all, he became a state commissioner despite never having been a principal or a superintendent or having any other notable administrative experience. He did, however, teach for two years as part of Teach for America.

Acting on his convictions that experience doesn’t matter, he appointed Molly Horstman, a 27-year-old with two years of TFA teaching in New Orleans to take charge of teacher evaluations for the state of Louisiana. Horstman graduated from college in 2007 and now she will be in charge of deciding how to evaluate teachers who have been in the classroom as long as she has been alive. The fact that she has no experience evaluating teachers is irrelevant.

Critics note that Horstman allowed her teaching certificate to lapse. Experienced teachers are outraged. This is just one more insult–although some call it the ultimate insult– hurled by state bureaucrats at people who have made a career in the classroom.

I also wrote about an exchange a colleague had with White over Horstman (pre-blog for me); the exchange was part of a January 2013 piece on Tom Aswell’s blog:

Molly Horstman, a TFAer with two years of teaching experience and an expired teaching certificate, was listed on the DOE website as the Director of COMPASS, the teacher evaluation system, for the state of Louisiana. Her identification as Director of COMPASS is documented in this professional meeting bio. Once Horstman’s position and lack of credentials were publicized, John White lied in an email to one of my colleagues as he wrote, “So you know, Molly is not the head of the teacher evaluation process.” …

Regardless of her title, Horstman continues to pull 77k as a DOE “fellow.”

Though White denies Horstman was listed as the director of COMPASS in an email exchange, he offered no explanation as to why Horstman was identified at professional venues in which she represents LDOE as COMPASS “director.”

Note also that neither White nor Horstman offers any public contradiction in response to this September 29, 2012, Advocate article in which Horstman is identified as COMPASS “the director” and questioned for allowing her teaching certificate to expire:

The director of Louisiana’s controversial new system to evaluate public school teachers had her own teaching certificate lapse.

“My teaching certificate is not active right now,” said Molly Horstman, who oversees the new review setup that state officials call Compass, Thursday.

Horstman, who spent two years in a New Orleans classroom, said the lack of a teaching certificate has nothing to do with her current post, which pays $77,000 per year.

“My job does not require that I go into the classroom to teach right now,” she said.

No mention of “You have this wrong. I am not the COMPASS director.” (Not to mention it was a little late for that after Horstman publicly identified herself as COMPASS director without any disclaimer at a minimum of two professional conferences.)

In this October 8, 2012, Houma Today article, White defends Horstman as “not the director,” just “on the director level.” The problem is that Horstman was listed as “director” of COMPASS on the LDOE website, and her name alone, as “director.” (The website url has changed, but I can attest to reading Horstman as the sole listed “director” of COMPASS.)

Note also that White’s lame statement about Horstman as merely being “on the director level” is a sad excuse. Horstman has no professional backbone to support the title of “director” of anything education-related, period, whether “the” director or “a” director.

Then again, White himself was strategically placed into leadership on the flimsy foundation of a two-year TFA stint in New Jersey. After Jersey, White then became a TFA “executive director” in Chicago and was moved along into superintendent positions in New York (deputy superintendent), New Orleans (superintendent), and Louisiana (superintendent) without ever having served any credible time in a classroom, and none as an assistant principal or principal of a school.

Yet now, he is in charge of all Louisiana public schools.

But back to Molly and her leaving LDOE in late 2013 without fanfare.

She did not go far. Horstman and her still-expired teaching certificate are in New Orleans, working for the Achievement Network (ANet), a nonprofit set up in ten states in order to “coach” schools into higher Common Core test scores by giving tests, tests, tests.

molly horstman 2  Horstman, member of ANet “Louisiana Team”

Here is the ANet spiel for how their “interim assessment” service can help with Common Core:


We understand that the changing assessment landscape, driven by the higher rigor of the Common Core State Standards, adds a layer of complexity and anxiety for schools. It’s not simple to align goals and instruction as standards and assessments evolve.

ANet shoulders the burden of keeping up with these changes for our partners. We work closely with leading Common Core experts—such as PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and EngageNY—to ensure alignment of our assessments and stay abreast of the latest resources.

ANet offers our partners a bridge to the Common Core by customizing our assessments—so schools can maintain rigor and high expectations during this complex period of transition.

Quick facts about ANet interim assessments:

  • Partner schools administer four assessments over the course of the year in grades 2-8 in ELA and math.
  • Results are delivered within 48 hours through our online platform, myANet.
  • Each assessment covers recently taught material.
  • ANet’s assessment items are created by our own team of specialists.
  • The assessments measure the Common Core State Standards and reflect each state’s Common Core transition plan.

ANet regards PARCC, Smarter Balanced,  and EngageNY as “experts,” and it assumes that Common Core is of “high rigor.” And it purports to improve that Common Core “rigor” by giving more tests created by its “team of specialists.”

However, this job description for “associate, math assessment team,” which states that part of the job is to “be responsible for assessment item selection and review,” reads less like “specialist” and more like it is tailored to the TFA alumnus:

Required Skills, Experiences and Competencies:

In order to be successful in this role, ideal candidates should demonstrate the following:

  • Excellent education credentials and school experience:  Bachelor’s degree; 2+ years of standards-based teaching, preferably in grades 2 – HS; experience with or study of assessment creation and design a plus

  • Strong understanding of what students must know and be able to do as demanded by the CCSS: Deep practical knowledge of the Content and Practice Standards, as well as aspects of rigor to inform the design of items and assessments

  • Exceptional attention to detail and command of English grammar and mechanics: Proven track record of producing error-free work while meeting internal and external deadlines

  • Comfort with working in an entrepreneurial, fast-paced, highly collaborative and team-oriented environment: With a desire to contribute to a growing organization, outstanding project management skills and initiative

  • Belief in The Achievement Network’s mission and strategy: Most importantly, a passionate commitment to and a sense of urgency for the support of urban schools, along with a belief that all students can achieve at high levels

With her two years of TFA and her history as “the”/”a” director of a statewide teacher evaluation system, it sounds like Horstman is in her element with such “experts” drilling both teachers and students in ANet tests with the aim that students get ever higher scores on Common Core tests.

Now, the job of “managing director, assessment strategy,” while it prefers but does not require “graduate work in relevant programs,” does require a minimum of eight years of COMPASS-director-ish work experience– which Horstman doesn’t have.

And she doesn’t strictly qualify by experience/background for “director of school support– Louisiana (New Orleans)”— though ideologically, she might be right on target:

Required Skills and Characteristics:

In order to be successful in this role, ideal candidates should demonstrate the following:

  • Mission Alignment: belief in ANet’s mission and strategy: embracing learning standards and student achievement data as meaningful tools for guiding instruction; professional development as a critical lever in school improvement; and network collaboration as a powerful means of spreading best practices across schools.
  • Instructional Expertise: proven track record of results as a teacher and/or teacher coach; clear vision of what great instruction looks like and how to develop it; skill in using learning standards to drive instruction (ideally familiar with the Common Core standards).
  • Strong Coaching and Leadership Development Orientation: ability to develop and motivate others to drive results, balancing humility and assertiveness; oriented to building the capacity of leaders.
  • Culture Fit: motivated by an entrepreneurial, fast-paced, highly-collaborative team environment, with a desire to contribute to a growing organization.
  • Relationship Builder: ability to develop meaningful coaching relationships with diverse leaders and to read and respond to unspoken and implicit cues.
  • Strategic Thinker: curiosity to solve complex problems and ability to think boldly to maximize new opportunities using a data-driven approach.
  • Strong Communicator: ability to clear convey key ideas verbally and in writing; strong presentation and facilitation skills.
  • Avid Learner: adaptive to feedback and focused on continuous improvement. 

Experience and Educational Background:

  • Minimum of 6-10 years of work experience, including: Experience with data and standards based education required.

    • Significant experience managing or coaching other adults (e.g. school leadership, instructional coaching, department and/or grade level chair, teacher leadership, adult leadership experience).
    • Teaching experience with a proven track record of high achievement results (two or more years required).
  • Experience with data and standards based education required.

  • Graduate school work in relevant programs (MEd, MBA, MPP) beneficial.

Nevertheless, with ANet in New Orleans, Horstman still holds some role in test-centric corporate ed reform– absent a website naming her as “director.”

director's chair


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.

both books

  1. Christine Langhoff permalink

    In Boston, ANet sends their salesmen door to door, hawking their wares to school principals. When principals balk, saying they don’t have money to buy, they are reassured that they can write a grant for funding. The sales pitch? The charters are doing this and we will raise your test scores by 5 points.

    But why do they get access to principals? Could it be because the Dick Cheney of the Boston Public Schools, Michael Contompasis, is on the Board of Directors of ANet Boston? Ya think?

    “Michael Contompasis is the former Director of Intergovernmental Relations and External Affairs for the City of Boston. He served as superintendent of the Boston Public Schools from 2006 through 2007, after having served as the district’s first chief operating officer since 1998. Previously, for more than 20 years, Mr. Contompasis served as headmaster of Boston Latin School in Boston, the nation’s first public school, where he maintained Boston Latin’s long-standing tradition of excellence in education. From 1996 to 1998, Mr. Contompasis also served as a cluster leader for Boston Public Schools, which included overseeing and mentoring the principals and headmasters of ten K-12 schools in the district. Mr. Contompasis began his career in education in 1966 as a biology teacher at East Boston High School, and later taught at Hyde Park High School and Boston Latin School. In 2006 he was presented with a Distinguished Service Award by The Council of the Great City Schools.”

  2. ira shor permalink

    Wow, thank you for another incredible expose of the TFA-Reformy operation. Just imagine a 27-yr-old poli sci grad from a fancy college moving up to be a Director, what a rocketship career to which the candidate must bring little except obedience to the Broad/Duncan/Charter testing agenda. This private war on public schools could not have gone so far unless it had many such ground-level operatives like Molly placed all over the nation in district after district. That was TFA’s job, to produce as many agents as quickly as possible as the troops to enforce testing, takeover, and privatization. Will re-post your blog on my FB, thanks again.

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    You nailed it again. Amateurs with too much power.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: