Education Week - November 11, 2015 - (Page 28)

d NOT COMMENTARY How Do We Keep Good Principals? A By Deborah Jewell-Sherman little known fact to many outside the K-12 education space is how often America's public school principals have their sleep interrupted by the day's burning issues, unresolved challenges, and persistent worries about the needs of their students and school communities. Over the past two decades, the responsibilities placed upon principals have grown, and yet their role has never been more vital to our students' future and that of our nation. One of the questions that nag all school leaders is whether our nation and its schools can meet the current national challenge of providing all students with the skills they will need to thrive in our rapidly changing economy and society. Principals know the proverbial buck stops in large measure at their school doors. The good news is that there's been a seismic shift away from the federal mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act to a more local push for deeper learning. College, career, and civic readiness have replaced traditional reading and math instruction as the focal point of classroom learning in many schools. That's good news. From my vantage point, NCLB did one good thing, if nothing else: It reminded us that all students means all. If we salvage nothing else from that well-meaning and illexecuted piece of legislation, it is that principals have an educational and moral responsibility to reach, teach, support, promote, and believe in the potential of every child under their collective and individual watch. We have engaged over the last four decades in a war of words and actions depicting deeply held beliefs, wide chasms in practice, and a great deal of finger-pointing coupled with blaming and shaming. Are more-rigorous standards the answer? Are charters the panacea? Should we ratchet up accountability, provide vouchers, change school structures and school levels, or should we change governance? Should we accept that America's public education is the Titanic, and we need to save all that we can, while accepting that this will leave out many, most especially our low-income students, English-language learners, and students of color? There's an African proverb that reads, "When the elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled." Guess who the elephants are? Today's principals know all too well that to continue the education wars while holding fast to ideological perspectives, without acknowledging the strengths and limitations of each one, will keep us trampling on the hopes and dreams of children and families-all of whom are praying that we will do what is necessary to secure their future. Our nation's principals are called upon to stand in the breach to make meaning of unaligned research, policies, and practices. Using wisdom, demonstrating compassion, and acting courageously on behalf of marginalized students and communities are the hallmarks of the best of our school leaders. While we focus on ensuring that our students are ready to embrace the challenges of this century, let's also remember what No Child Left Behind demanded: We must make sure that all students are prepared. Together, we must support school leadership to help them move their schools and communities to a place of inclusivity and respect for every child. ■ DEBORAH JEWELL-SHERMAN is a professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Last spring, she received the Harvard Morningstar Award for excellent teaching. A former classroom teacher and principal, she was the 2009 Virginia Superintendent of the Year. G By Mary Grassa O'Neill reat schools require great principals, and the most effective principals create the right conditions for teachers and students to flourish. Many principals find joy and satisfaction in their work. But according to the 2014 report "Churn: The High Cost of Principal Turnover," by the School Leaders Network, approximately 50 percent of principals leave their jobs after only three years. Why is there such high turnover? The job of the principal is increasingly demanding. First and foremost, principals must ensure that the students in their schools are achieving at high levels and becoming kind, compassionate, wellrounded citizens prepared to thrive in an unknown future. Principals are publicly accountable to their teachers, their districts, and their parents. Each day brings with it innovations to implement, limited resources to manage, and crises to navigate. How can we turn this situation around to get school leaders to love their jobs? The challenges and rewards of being a principal are many. But we need to reimagine the instructional, managerial, and personal leadership roles that the position entails. We need to prepare principals to lead the kinds of schools we want our children to attend. And we need to provide these school leaders with the career support they need to succeed at their jobs and persist over time. For principals to be true instructional leaders, they need to be in classrooms. This is difficult when the role also demands a wide range of managerial tasks that call for immediate attention. But if principals are to be accountable for teaching and learning, they need time for teacher observation and feedback. We must use principal preparation as the vehicle for attracting and retaining outstanding school leaders with top-notch skills. Professional development must be ongoing, engaging, and transformative. Given the solitary nature of the position, principals need professional networks through which they can engage with fellow practitioners across public, charter, independent, and faith-based schools. Collegiality among leaders offers a rich source of learning and access to the multiple sources of strength and perspective needed to be successful. Where we have state and federal policies and public-private initiatives that support principal development, we must seek to expand their reach. We can extend partnerships with colleges, universities, and the business community to strengthen professional-development efforts. This can all be accomplished. But we must also raise the funds to make these opportunities accessible. "Leadership," Bill Bradley-former U.S. senator, basketball hallof-famer, and Rhodes Scholar-is quoted as saying, "is unlocking people's potential to become better." Principals hold this very key and also shoulder the responsibility. Leadership is a daunting task, but an essential one, well worth the investment it requires. We can rekindle the joy of being a principal-one of the hardest jobs you'll ever love. Ultimately, it's our nation's children who will benefit. ■ MARY GRASSA O'NEILL has served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent for Massachusetts' Boston and Milton school districts and was the secretary of education for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Currently, she is a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Steve Braden for Education Week | INSIDE | The Challenges 20 of School Leadership 21 I MUST BE EVERYWHERE AT ONCE I PUT OUR MISSION FRONT AND CENTER 22 23 24 I CONTROL WHAT I CAN I PRIORITIZE COMMUNITY-BUILDING LETTERS TO THE EDITOR EDUCATION WEEK | November 11, 2015 | | 28

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 11, 2015

Education Week - November 11, 2015
RTI Practice Falls Short of Promise, Research Finds
Districts Confront Transgender Policies
Top Teacher’s Resignation Spurs Certification Debate
Special Ed. Law Wrought Complex Changes
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Blogs of the Week
In Colorado School Board Recall, Politics and Money Drive Ouster
‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Is Tough Call for Districts
Districts Struggle to Equip Schools With Fast, Affordable Internet
States Prepare for Shifting Role On Accountability
In Off-Year Elections, Ky., Miss. Drew Spotlight on K-12
Arizona Governor Signs Deal to Settle K-12 Funding Suit
Blogs of the Week
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Must Be Everywhere at Once
Put Our Mission Front and Center
Control What I Can
Prioritize Community-Building
How Do We Keep Good Principals?

Education Week - November 11, 2015