Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Consider the Principal

This from the National Journal:
The principal is your pal. (That's how I learned to spell it, anyway.) That statement may be hard to square with literary characterizations of principals--from the hapless Principal Krupp in the acclaimed kids' book series Captain Underpants to the deliciously evil Principal Rooney in the 1996 John Hughes film Ferris Bueller's Day Off--but it does bear out in real life. A principal's main job is to make sure the kids and teachers in his or her school are taken care of, and that's no small task.
A new report from the Center for Public Education says that a principal's responsibilities have grown beyond administrative duties to include core curriculum and student achievement goals, and many in the profession now feel the job is "undoable."

However, the report also says that principals often are the key ingredient to improving a school's performance, and principals have the most impact at low-achieving schools. Effective principals hire and retain the most effective teachers, and they stick around to make sure that needed changes are carried through. The less effective principals tend to move more frequently to different schools, which adversely impacts the students and teachers.

Principals also are on the hook more than they used to be with the achievement goals of No Child Left Behind and the Education Department's turnaround model for low-performing schools, which mandates new leadership. The Center for Public Education agrees with the administration that the principal is a critical element in turning around a low-performing school, but its report notes that even the best leaders need time before the results of their labors are evident. "It takes a highly effective principal about five years to fully impact a school's performance," the report said...


Anonymous said...

Wow, can you imagine any school organization or group giving a principal five years to demonstrate effective change. Heck, all we do now is jump around like frogs on a hot rocky bank each year to the tune of the latest assessment score on a subject. Don't see how anyone could ever addresst things like quality faculty capacity, school culture or shared vision in todays climate.

Not sure if it is a fair intepretation to imply that lesser administrators job hop and better administrators stick around. If you are getting things done at a school, you can become a very hot commodity for other districts with deeper pockets and greater resources. Let's not fault folks for advancing their career.

Richard Day said...

Well, I'd say principals are often central to school success. I'd also say that the road "up" is often associated with a willingness to relocate.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, research and practice support secondary or indirect positive influence on instructional effectiveness. I worry that schools labeled as "failing" or in need of "turn around" are environments which out of a sense of immediacy or even despiration aren't willing to invest in that sort of long term leadership commitment. I often hear of the need for limited quick victories in order to maintain a sense of positive direction and ensure one's continued employment. Seems that what these schools need are long term solutions not flash in the pan fixes to limited issues. I enjoy leading a school but as I look over the last 10 years, I see that it has required a few tough battles and some long term commitment in order to make bigger substanative changes emerge and manifest on a consistent basis.

Richard Day said...

The problem with high-stakes assessment is that the pressure for quick results tends to take us away from sound change strategies. Every year there seems to be some school with a big jump in scores that promises a new hope for the future. And every year, last year's hope fades.

I think three to five years is a reasonable time frame to see positive change (3 yrs) and improved results (by 5 yrs).

Anonymous said...

Jefferson County must have bought into this big time. They posted 80 (yes 8 x 10, 5 x 16) elementary assistant principal positions today! NOt sure if the person posting the positions mistakenly hit the submit button too many times or the new superintendent brought a big pot of money when they came to Jefferson County. Really, what is up with that? When you kick in benefits that is somewhere between a quarter of a million to a million dollars. YOu could have staffed to elementary schools for that. What gives?