The Principal in Urban Schools
Walter F. Beckman
Principals are key factors in successful urban schools, and the degree to which they meet the current and future challenges determines the degree to which these schools can be effective. There are no simple solutions to complex school problems and the countless demands on the urban principal. In fact, the problems and the demands facing the school may be so staggering that the principal's need for imagination, innovation, and initiative may be more than at any other time in the recent past. Mandates for improved school quality and broader services are forcing the need for a new principalship.
Certainly no single chapter can contain all the necessary answers for the instant success of urban principals. This chapter is intended to take a rapid look at what the principal faces within the urban school, what his or her role is, the necessary tools of the position, a quick look at administrator preparation, and what needs to be done to achieve success.
What can we say about urban schools today? Where are they in their development, and where are they going? It is difficult to answer these kinds of questions. It is easier to say where they are not and where they do not seem to be going. They do not appear to be teaching the immigrant and urban poor children of America what they need to know to escape their poverty, and they do not seem to be institutions of equity and social justice. Urban schools have a record of failure that stretches back more than 100 years. They have never provided their students with the personalized education they so desperately needed. They have never used multicultural or multilinguistic approaches with much success.
Most people agree that urban schools are too big and too impersonal. Their curriculum is riddled with linguistic and cultural biases; their teaching methods are archaic by any standards. The funding base of urban schools is woefully