Robert R. Neu, Ed.S.
Superintendent, Federal Way Public Schools
Rob Neu, to quote a colleague, "is an amazingly creative thinker who understands the growing challenges of education." Neu describes himself as a student-centered decision maker who firmly believes in educating the whole child. A comprehensive curriculum supported by extra-curricular programs, he says, is the foundation of American public education.
"I understand the need to focus on student achievement as measured by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But I remain committed to engaging all students through a curriculum that taps their individual interests and brings relevance to their world," Neu says. "Every kid has a carrot" that brings him or her to school, he adds, and that allows the school to get them engaged in learning.
Superintendent Neu was hired by the Federal Way Public Schools' Board of Directors in April, 2010 and officially took over the leadership role on July 1, 2010. He has proven himself as a leader in his over 20 years of experience in public education.
Prior to joining Federal Way Public Schools, Neu served as the Superintendent of Waterford School District in Waterford, Michigan. He was credited there as an exceptional steward of district resources and, simultaneously, an effective change agent leader. In addition to K-12 education, Neu has a background in marketing and business.
Innovative approaches for reaching all students
Standards Based Education
In Federal Way, Neu took the lead as the district implemented standards-based education in 2011. SBE includes defining the common standards that all students should know at each grade level, and aligning curriculum horizontally and vertically to make sure all students achieve those standards. Like other school systems across the nation, Federal Way adopted a standards-based education system because research shows it has a positive impact on student learning. Read more about SBE at http://www.fwps.org/cur/sbe/.
In 2010, Neu led the district in beginning a highly unique and successful Academic Acceleration program, which automatically enrolls eligible students in advanced courses. Traditionally, school districts have provided advanced academic programs and left it up to the most academically motivated students and their parents to enroll in them. In Federal Way, we're taking a different approach. The district now automatically enrolls students who have shown they are capable of doing well in advanced classes. The goal is to encourage students to achieve at their highest level. Since the program was implemented, four trends stand out:
- More of the district's students are taking advanced academic classes than before the policy went into effect;
- More of those students are passing those courses;
- More of those students take the related after-course exams;
- And more of them are passing the after-course exams, showing strong enough mastery of the content to earn college credit for the class.
College Prep Day
Superintendent Neu is committed to creating a college-going culture within Federal Way Public Schools. The latest district innovation is to pay for any senior to take the SAT and to offer the testing during a regular school day. Seniors have responded en masse, with 83.25% signed up to take the test in the program's first year. That number is the more than triple that of the previous year, when approximately 25% of seniors took the test. The free SAT opportunity is part of an annual College Preparation Day, a day-long event that engages all 8th -12th grade students in activities and assessments designed to better prepare them to get into and be successful in college. By implementing this program, the district is acting to remove another barrier that traditionally inhibits minority students and students in poverty from pursuing post-secondary education. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/9h59au5.
The work that lies ahead
Federal Way has experienced rapidly changing student demographics in the past decade. It has also endured state funding cuts, and has responded by increasing its efforts to educate state lawmakers. And yet, the district continues to make progress in closing the achievement gap and improving educational opportunities for each and every student.
Superintendent Neu is passionate about the innovative work going on in Federal Way. In frequent meetings with staff, students, administrators and the greater Federal Way community, Neu's enthusiasm fosters a spirit of pride among people in the district. The work ahead will not be easy. But, Neu emphasizes, "The worst thing we can do is settle for mediocrity."
As Federal Way schools move forward, there can be no doubt the district has found a leader that believes that it can educate all children to their full potential, and understands the urgency of making that simple belief a reality.