The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page.(November 2008)
In the United States there are many variations in public school systems from state to state. Every state constitution has language requiring a state-supported system of public education. Education comes within states' rights so, while there are many similarities among public school education systems from state to state, there are also differences.
Many state departments of education in the United States refer to their state-level chief education officer/administrator as "Superintendent." However, also common are the titles "commissioner" and "secretary." In most states the state-level education administrator is appointed, but some states select the official by statewide election.
Depending on the state in which they serve, a public school Superintendent might be referred to as "chief education officer," or "chief executive officer" (although the title as used in education does not have legal meaning). The most common title is "Superintendent of Schools." Generally, public school district Superintendents have administrative oversight of the students, public schools, and educational services within the geographic area (school district) identified by state law. School district Superintendents are hired by a school board of a local school district.
In many states Superintendents of schools are members on the board of education (school board) of their school district, but they usually cannot vote as members of the board. In most states, Superintendents of schools are required to hold a "certification" issued by the state in which they work. State certification is typically earned by completing a course of study prescribed by the state, usually 60 graduate hours above the bachelor degree and an internship. While not required by any state, many school boards prefer that their Superintendent hold a doctoral degree. Most Superintendents are hired by contract with the board of education (or board of trustees). The board of education is the governing (policy making) entity of the school district. The board of education is composed of elected (or appointed) officials from the communities the school district serves.
The term 'superintendent' is rarely used for education in the United Kingdom (possibly to avoid confusion with the police rank); in most Local Education Authorities the equivalent title is Chief Education Officer. According to the history of Newcastle High School (published in 1985), when in 1885 the Church Schools Company took over a school to form Newcastle High School, later Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School, the mistress of the former school was briefly considered for the post of Lady Superintendent, below the headmistress.