Why It Matters
School improvement is not possible without skilled, knowledgeable leadership that is responsive to the needs of all teachers and students, including, engages professional academic writing services to improve the level of awareness. A recent report by the Wallace Foundation revealed that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school, and leadership effects are usually largest where and when they are needed most. School leaders must combine appropriate pressures and supports as they develop an environment that encourages professional learning communities and continuous school improvement.
The Wallace report indicated that three sets of practices constitute the basic core of successful leadership practices: setting directions, developing people, and redesigning the organization. Ultimately, successful and responsive school leadership has the potential to:
Foster teacher learning and help stem teacher turnover;
Improve student learning;
Allow principals to continue their own professional growth and development;
Build collaboration among school leaders, teachers and the community;
Encourage a shared vision and clear communication between teachers and administrators; and
Sustain school improvement efforts and make them more effective.
What We Know
National studies analyzing teacher survey results, like the Schools and Staffing Survey from the National Center for Education Statistics, have found that teachers leaving because of job dissatisfaction frequently indicate the lack of administrative support and low salaries as the top reasons for their departure. Teachers from high minority, high poverty schools were even more likely to report that the lack of administrative support was the primary reason for leaving. School leadership has been documented to have an impact on the overall school culture and teacher job satisfaction. Consequently, principal development will prove essential in reducing the high teacher turnover rates and creating professional learning communities within schools.
Principals have enormous responsibilities to analyze data for decision-making and evaluation purposes. Principals and school leaders are also responsible for the development of formative evaluation programs for teachers that emphasize professional growth over summative evaluation programs that emphasize performance. Given these increased responsibilities, principals must continue with their own professional development.
Just as teachers need time to collaboratively plan and grow with their colleagues, principals need those same opportunities to study school and district-wide issues with other principals, looking for pertinent solutions. Additionally, principals need opportunities to work with classroom teachers, so that they deeply understand their experiences and how that relates to student and teacher learning needs.
A survey commissioned by the NAESP and NASSP found that roughly 50 percent of school districts surveyed reported a shortage in the labor pool for K-12 principal positions[i]. To deal with this shortage, the framework for developing principals must change. The profession will benefit from looking to teachers themselves and encouraging classroom teachers to pursue the principalship. This will only strengthen the connection between school leaders, the classroom, and continuous adult and student learning.
North Carolina has two initiatives in place which support principal growth, collaboration, networking and professional development[ii]; the North Carolina Principal Fellows Program and the Principals Executive Program. The Fellows program encourages qualified applicants to pursue a Master of School Administration by providing scholarships, loans and support. The Principals Executive Program seeks to improve the skills of public school administrators as instructional leaders and managers of personnel, property, and budgets. More information is needed on effects of these programs in improving school leadership, especially in regard to improving teachers’ professional development opportunities.
What the Toolkit Provides
The word “leadership” should no longer evoke images of the lone principal who commands authority over all decisions made in a school. It is time to rethink what school leadership means. Our recommendations focus on the need for principals to continue their own learning and professional development, which in turn requires restructuring the traditional principal workload to provide time for collaboration with other school leaders. Several recommendations emphasize the necessity of strong communication between teachers and principals so that teachers are simultaneously led in the right direction and supported in their efforts to improve student learning. We also strongly encourage providing opportunities for teachers to expand their role as school leaders.
In order to develop strong school leadership, education stakeholders should consider the following:
Create a system where principals have meaningful PD that enhances their knowledge and skills as effective instructional leaders serving students and teachers.
Reexamine and modify the work of principals allowing them sufficient time for effective and ongoing communication with teachers. Communication should include a shared vision for success, clear performance expectations of the school community and regular updates on emerging policies and initiatives shaping education.
Ensure the formal evaluation system is based on student learning and professional development that enhances teachers' knowledge and skills. An informal process of continued feedback and recognition for teacher performance should accompany the formal evaluation process.
Ensure that principals and other school personnel are effectively supporting teachers and responding to primary concerns that prohibit teachers from improving student learning. Teacher support should be accessible, proactive, and collaborative in nature.
Teachers should have opportunities not only to advance in teaching, but also to explore and pursue the principalship.