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Leadership is an essential ingredient for ensuring that every child gets the education they need to succeed. Indeed, education leadership has been called the "bridge" that can bring together the many different reform efforts in ways that practically nothing else can. Teachers are on the front lines of learning. But principals at the school level, and superintendents at the district level, are uniquely positioned to provide a climate of high expectations, a clear vision for better teaching and learning, and the means for everyone in the system - adults and children - to realize that vision.
As one principal recently put it, "It is not just about being an administrator, it's about being instructional leaders." Experience to date has taught us: that in order to get the leaders we want and need in every school, it's not enough to improve their training, as urgent as that is. Different places and districts also need to create:
Standards that spell out clear expectations about what leaders need to know and do to improve instruction and learning and that form the basis for holding them accountable for results; and
Conditions and incentives that support the ability of leaders to meet those standards. These include the availability of data to inform leaders' decisions; the authority to direct needed resources to the schools and students with the greatest needs; and policies that affect the recruitment, hiring, placement and evaluation of school leaders. Each of these core elements for better education leadership is vital. But what is equally important is that districts need to work much more closely together in creating more supportive leadership standards, training and conditions. To create, in other words, what we've come to call a cohesive leadership system. We need leadership to forge all of the various elements of today's school reform efforts into a well-functioning system that makes sense for those working hard to achieve results for children. A well-functioning system means not only improved training - but "a more coherent web of support for strong, learning-focused leadership in schools and school districts. Partial solutions - like new roles without the authority to carry them out, or more focus on learning without timely data on results - are likely to lead to failure. "The reality is that if we continue to put good leaders into a bad system, we will also have to continue to bet on a system that has failed to serve far too many children."
We're still at the beginning of this national journey to better school leadership that can make a measurable difference in lifting student achievement across entire school districts and states. However, the collective work over the past eight years has given us a lot to build on, and we must continue this work with even greater urgency. As Aristotle reminds us, "All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." Effective principals encourage others to join in the decision-making process in their schools. "Influence in schools is not a fixed sum or a zero-sum game."
Researchers have examined leadership skills from a variety of perspectives. Early analyses of leadership, from the 1900s to the 1950s, differentiated between leader and follower characteristics. Finding that no single trait or combination of traits fully explained leaders' abilities, researchers then began to examine the influence of the situation on leaders' skills and behaviors. Subsequent leadership studies attempted to distinguish effective from non-effective leaders. These studies attempted to determine which leadership behaviors were exemplified by effective leaders. To understand what contributed to making leaders effective, researchers used the contingency model in examining the connection between personal traits, situational variables, and leader effectiveness. Leadership studies of the 1970s and 1980s once again focused on the individual characteristics of leaders which influence their effectiveness and the success of their organizations. The investigations led to the conclusion that leaders and leadership are crucial but complex components of organizations.
Teacher leadership has been seen in traditional roles such as department heads, textbook adoption committee chairpersons, and union representatives. In addition to being restricted to these three areas, "traditional leadership opportunities for teachers are extremely limited and generally serve an efficiency function rather than a leadership function". However current educational reforms prompt a reconsideration of teacher leadership. Reforms such as site based management and restructuring efforts include broader roles for teacher participation and leadership. Current teacher leadership roles are involving teachers as mentors, team leaders, curriculum developers, and staff development providers and intend to "improve the quality of public education while allowing teachers greater leadership in the development of those improvements". These roles involve teachers in decision-making processes and facilitate teachers becoming leaders of change. Nickse (1977) studied teachers as change agents and advocated teachers in leadership roles in change efforts for four reasons:
teachers have a vested interest, "they care about what they do and how they do it and feel a sense of responsibility for their efforts";
teachers have a sense of history, they are "aware of the norms of their colleagues";
teachers know the community, "have information concerning the values and attitudes of the community" and
teachers can implement change, they "are where the action is. . .in the position to initiate planned change on the basis of need".
Yet despite these reasons and attempts to promote teachers as leaders of change and to extend teacher leadership roles, teachers do not view themselves as leaders.
Nevertheless, the data on leaders of educational change and the emerging information on teacher leadership indicate that the characteristics of these individuals mirror those of leaders who have changed other organizations. Leaders of educational change have vision, foster a shared vision, and value human resources. They are proactive and take risks. In addition, they strongly believe that the purpose of schools is to meet the academic needs of students and are effective communicators and listeners. Leaders of educational change have vision; foster a shared vision, and value human resources. They are proactive and take risks. School leaders are creative visionaries willing to take risks in pursuit of cherished values and able to cling to a vision with a tenacity that is contagious to nearly everyone".
The importance of principals having a vision also appears in the literature concerning instructional. Principals have a vision -- a picture of what they want their schools to be and their students to achieve. "Leadership requires a vision. Without a vision to challenge followers with, there's no possibility of a principal being a leader". The vision provides guidance and direction for the school staff, students, and administration. "Providing vision and direction for the school" as a component of instructional leadership. Principals keep their "vision in the forefront". "Associated with a vision has to be a plan, a way of reaching the goal". The terms "mission" and "goal-oriented" are often used in literature to describe this characteristic of principals. The school administrators' values and beliefs shape her or his vision. Vision influences the school climate which includes teachers' instructional behaviors as well as student outcomes.
While administrators' visions tend to focus on district- or school- wide instructional issues, teachers' visions tend to address teacher roles and student outcomes. Murphy, Everston, and Radnofsky (1991) discussed teachers' opinions on restructuring and found that while teachers agreed with the literature concerning restructuring, they emphasized the student and instructional issues. These teachers' visions included changes in the classroom, such as interdisciplinary curricula, varied student grouping patterns, and instruction that included basic literacy as well as "critical thinking, creativity, inquisitiveness, and independence of thought" (Murphy, Everston, & Radnofsky, 1991, p. 144). Teachers' vision also included school changes that would result in more participatory and decision- making roles for teachers. School administrators that have developed a shared vision with their faculty have also created common ground that serves to facilitate or compel action to the realization of this common vision.
The relationship between the teachers' and administrators' vision is important. Administrators' vision tends to encompass the whole system. Teachers' vision appears to focus primarily on the individual or personal actions for school change. However, closer examination of the two -- teachers' and administrators' visions -- may reveal that both groups of educators are looking at the same vision but attending to different aspects. School administrators that have developed a shared vision with their faculty have also created common ground that serves to facilitate or compel action to the realization of this common vision. Frequently underlying a shared vision are teachers' and administrators' shared values and beliefs, specifically believing that schools are for students' learning.
A High School with more than 1500 students coming mostly from low income population areas. You can find teachers unwilling to collaborate and work in teams, students underachieving and unsupported.
The objective is to have all the school members worked together to make the school a high- achieving learning environment where the culture of the students is valued and supported. Through teamwork, staff development, and a continuous focus on student learning, the staff and principal will implement new instructional techniques, tight the curriculum, and improve skills. Teachers will try new approaches in their classrooms. They will visit each other's classes monthly to observe, discuss, and give feedback in an informal form of peer coaching.
Many teachers remain unconvinced by the principle of inclusion. Collaborative action research can draw more teachers into the exciting challenge of engaging all their pupils in learning. Teachers should have ownership of the research and work collaboratively and there should be a focus on the effects of their practice on pupils' learning and participation.
The change process through which schools and clusters are supported and work to improve their learning and teaching is the sequence of events and actions taken by teachers, working as a team, to improve learning and teaching in the school. The Principles are central to this; they provide the focus and are a reference point for talking about learning and teaching and clarifying goals and school-based initiatives. The change process is designed to facilitate locally based decisions about learning and teaching. The action plan is an agreed position generated at the school level about actions related to pedagogy that the school will undertake to bring about change. These decisions are determined by the particular and individual conditions and goals of each school, decisions that only the school can make. The action plan includes monitoring processes that help teachers refine their teaching approaches and evaluate whether the changes lead to improved student outcomes. For clusters undertaking this program, the school action plan sits within a broader cluster plan. The relationship between the cluster and school planning and organization will be different for each cluster, depending on local conditions.
Supporting actions: These are actions that are essential for the planning and implementation of change initiatives to be successful. For example, experience has shown that organizational arrangements such as time-tabling and room allocation must be attended to. Strategic reporting within and beyond the immediate school/cluster community can significantly enhance support for the program and the commitment of the team.
Infrastructure support: Implementing the change process assumes and depends upon a set of interlocking structures to support schools and clusters. These include:
â€¢ support from DE&T and critical friends who work with the school, supplemented by cluster and regional network arrangements including workshops
â€¢ access to local expertise, including the Cluster Coordinator
â€¢ tools such as interviews and questionnaires for evaluation
â€¢ professional development through training workshops for PoLT (Principles of Learning and Teaching) and Cluster Coordinators, the PoLT modular and online Professional Learning resources, and other professional development support provided by the PoLT and/or Cluster Coordinator.
Within the School Accountability and Improvement Framework, schools are encouraged to reflect on their current organizational sustainability, along with their current operations and practices, to identify and develop the key strategies required to achieve the desired student outcomes. At the heart of the new framework is a set of questions that will assist schools to focus evaluation and planning processes on improved outcomes for all students:
1. What outcomes are we trying to achieve for our students?
2. Where are we now?
3. What do we have to do to achieve the outcomes we want?
4. How will we manage our resources to achieve these outcomes?
5. How will we know whether we are achieving these outcomes?
The planning phase is critical to the success of the project in the school. Developing an action plan requires considerable thought and attention, and will probably take a full term in the school year to complete. The main steps in developing the action plan are:
â€¢ auditing learning and teaching practices in the school
A range of information is collected from student surveys, teacher interviews, analyses of the school curriculum and resources, PoLT team processes and relevant policies and initiatives in the school. This information will focus discussion on appropriate directions to take.
â€¢ reviewing and prioritising
The key issues are analysed and initiatives and goals are identified.
â€¢ developing and writing the action plan
The PoLT action plan should specify a range of actions to be taken by the PoLT Coordinator and teachers at various times during the implementation process to answer these questions and improve learning and teaching. PoLT action planning will be an integral part of the School Strategic Planning process.
Memoranda - Letters
Dear Parents and Friends:
As the new Principal of High School, it has been my sincere pleasure and honor to become a member of this great school community. High School enjoys a rich history of academic and cultural excellence that is the result of a collegial partnership between the school staff and parents who provide a diversity of experiences for the students. During my first weeks in the district, I have indeed found this close working relationship and focus upon what is best for children to exist. I am truly honored to be appointed to this position and am looking forward to working with the dedicated staff to provide the best possible educational program for our students.
Before coming here, my professional career was entirely within the XYZ School for many years. I held the positions of teacher, principal, staff trainer of technology, and central office administrator. I am very excited to be a part of the High School family and to closely work with everyone to make our school even better.
My greatest initiative is to provide the leadership that will facilitate a school environment to provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of each student to the best of our ability. The educational program must be academically challenging, engage each student by linking the curriculum to previous knowledge and experience, and also be exciting to promote further exploration of new ideas. Parents, teachers, support staff, and administration all have an important role to encourage our children to become active learners. It is my sincere desire to provide expanded opportunities for our students to acquire the skills to become productive citizens in a vastly changing society.
Through a close and collegial partnership with everyone associated with High School, I am confident we can make our school an even a better place for our students to learn and grow.
Let me be the first to say Welcome back to school!" And, if this is your first year at High School, Welcome to our school!" I am honored to be the Principal for High School! As many of you already know, my name is ABC administrator. Being selected as the new High School Community Schools is exciting. I must say I choose to come here because of the wonderful staff and students that make up this school district. For our students" was also a determining factor. I want you to feel welcome to stop by school whether it's to volunteer, have lunch with your child, or simply say hi. I believe it is important for your children to and I will work hard to make sure that happens. You will frequently find me at lunch with the students or in classrooms throughout the school. I hold myself accountable for being a visible presence in the classrooms, hallways, and extra-curricular events. My hope is that you and your child will find me as approachable and easy to speak to and that you won't hesitate to contact me if you ever have questions, concerns, or you just want to share good news about our school or your child.
I would like to close by once again telling you how much I am looking forward to working with the parents, students, and staff at High School. Thank you for the opportunity to work with your children. I am truly honored.
High School Principal