Arlene C. Ackerman, 66; school leader in three different cities

NEW YORK — Arlene C. Ackerman — who won national accolades for improving student performance as a schools superintendent in all three cities that hired her, Washington, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, even as her bulldozer management style rankled union leaders and politicians — died Saturday in Albuquerque. She was 66. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

Ms. Ackerman, who lived in Albuquerque, called herself ‘‘a warrior for children.’’ She fought to ­improve the performance of disadvantaged students by allocating more resources and attention to lower-performing schools and by replacing the worst with new ones, often charter schools. In 2010, she won the Richard R. Green Award, given by the Council of Great City Schools to the top ­urban school leader.


She improved students’ test scores, including those in the most severely underperforming schools, in each of the three cities in which she led the schools. But in each city, disagreements with elected school overseers prompted her to leave before her contract expired. Many attributed this to arro­gance and an autocratic style.

Ms. Ackerman countered that she was unwilling to play politics.

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