Alan Bersin not only embraces change, he also thinks deeply and broadly about how to achieve it in public education. As superintendent of public education for San Diego, he headed a dramatic, often controversial effort to turn around the nation’s eighth largest school district.

During the first four years of Bersin’s tenure, from 1998 to 2002, overall achievement scores increased 15 percent in reading and 20 percent in math. At the same time, his tenure was marked by battles with the teachers...

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