Readying Ed Leadership Programs for Race to the Top and School Reform

And so ended another five-day marathon Race to the Top Network Team Institute in Albany, New York. As with previous events, it was long, hard, and filled with practical exercises and activities. I loved it. Ken Slentz, John King, and Kate Gerson got us started on Monday with their standard, “Good morning” and, after the audience’s Pavlovian mumbled response, followed up with,”Let’s try that again. Good Morning.” Monday mornings are challenging for most, particularly when they launch the hard work of school reform training. However, when you go from the top brass at NYSED to presenters and practitioners such as Duffy Miller and Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, how can you miss??

Though I no longer conduct Race to the Top training sessions, I do work in a university that offers degrees in teaching and education administration. Consequently, the work of school reform is as relevant as ever–particularly during this Network Team Institute which focused on teacher and principal evaluation. We know the research on time use by principals, and Paul Bambrick-Santoyo showed us how it is indeed possible to schedule a principal’s week and increase the number of observations and teacher meetings 20-fold (I kid you not. Check out his new book, Leveraged Leadership). The same rule was applied to scheduling a superintendent’s week to evaluate principals. We also practiced principal-teacher coaching sessions, superintendent-principal coaching sessions, analyzed case studies, and action planned for the work that lies ahead. Duffy Miller then took us through the detailed work of principal evaluation using the ISLLC Standards, NYSED-approved principal evaluation rubrics, and a 15-artifact case study. We used evidence tables aligned with the ISLLC Standards to organize our information, and then selected a rubric to rate the principal’s performance. The work was rigorous, relevant, and perfect for a principal preparation program.

If you are an education administrator, you may have recent or faded memories of your own ed leadership program. Did the program prepare you well for the work you do now? My guess is probably not given the pace of school reform in recent years. With Race to the Top sweeping across P-12 education, the impacts of reform are now starting to lap up on the shores of every teacher and principal college in the country. Common Core College and Career Ready Standards, Evidence-based Observations, Principal Evaluation, Data-Driven Instruction, Student Learning Objectives, Rubrics, and other concepts now part of the P-12 lexicon are pushing fast into college and university classrooms. And that’s a good thing. After-all, there’s a sense of urgency to the school reform agenda which rightfully expects graduates of teacher and principal education programs to be ready to hit the ground running. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

In terms of school principals, the Wallace Foundation provides a wealth of information on effective leadership, including education leadership programs and development. All significant change efforts are best informed by data, and so it goes with principal preparation programs. The Principal Preparation Program Assessment from the Wallace Foundation offers rubrics and guidelines to inform the work of assessing ed leadership courses and internships, and The Making of the Principal: Five Lessons in Leadership Training summarizes ways for to ensure effective school leadership.

Transformation of principal preparation programs is occurring in pockets throughout the country, and the very finest examples are included in the Wallace Foundation research. There are also organizations steeped in experiences with school leadership development, and when I inquired about effective leadership programs at this past week’s RttT Network Team Institute, I was urged to explore the good work being done by New Leaders. I was also encouraged to review the new New York State Teacher Certification Examinations for teachers and school building leaders scheduled to be rolled out in 2014. What gets measured gets done, and so a thorough review of the NYSTCE assessment designs and frameworks is a must-do for anyone associated with principal preparation programs (including the future principals).

As I transition to my new work in post-secondary education, I am conscious of the strengthening bridge between P-12 and institutions of higher education. With data systems on the horizon for tracking success of college graduates to find jobs, increase student achievement, and hold a tenure track position, the lessons learned from Race to the Top are highly relevant and appreciated. With an abundance of education leadership research and highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals eager to make a difference in this country, now is a leveraged moment to put those lessons to good use.

2 responses to “Readying Ed Leadership Programs for Race to the Top and School Reform

  1. Steve – I am glad you are doing this work. The new APPR process including the SLO piece makes a huge assumption that building level principals recognize and have practiced quality instruction. I think this is an extremely shaky foundation for school reform. My personal experience has been that school principals were seldom effective teachers. Many of them are quite good at managing a building. And those skills are needed and important. But the expectation that a principal recognizes good instruction is, I think, a big jump for many.

  2. Hi Linda–Me too. It fits so tightly with what we’ve been doing with RttT, and given the high stakes accountability in education these days, principals are interested in doing their best work possible.

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