Home > Uncategorized > Principals Matter… Overhauling Staff, Not So Much

Principals Matter… Overhauling Staff, Not So Much

April 30, 2012

Today’s Boston Globe featured an article outlining the findings of a recent report on the effects of requiring teachers in “failing schools” to re-apply for their jobs. The conclusion: having teachers reapply for jobs made less difference than having a strong Principal who is capable of motivating the staff. The idea of requiring teachers to reapply for their jobs in “failing” schools comes from the Obama/Duncan administration…. and, like many of the USDOE’s solutions of late, they are, to quote Mencken: “… simple, neat, and wrong.”

from my perspective, the whole study is flawed because of the way we now define a “failing school”… because the definition is based on– what else— standardized test scores! So here’s what an effective principal looks like, wit emphases added:

Schools with gains had principals who were adept at motivating their staffs to turn around school performance. Many of these principals visited classrooms daily, appointed teachers to leadership roles, and fostered a schoolwide focus on results.

By contrast, the report said, the lowest performers generally “did not exhibit the same level of urgency or laserlike focus on improving instruction and student achievement.’

I wholeheartedly agree that good principals are “…adept at motivating their staffs” and would also contend that they visit classrooms daily and draw on the expertise of their teaching staffs. Sadly, today’s Principal is only as good as their test scores, so in order to survive they must focus on test results and get teachers to buy into that as well. The result: in schools where test scores are LOW, tests are the be all and end all and teachers who don’t buy into that are probably the ones who will be eliminated when they re-apply. In schools where test scores are HIGH, the Principal and teachers get to focus laser like on improving the well-being of their students. So… which school do you want your children to attend? The one where tests are the be all and end all or the school where your child’s well-being is of primary importance?

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