Principal Empowerment through AB 75: Principals Find That AB 75 Training Helps Them Better Understand the Curriculum and Support Teachers' Instructional Needs

By King, Chris; Smoot, Gaye | Leadership, September-October 2004 | Go to article overview

Principal Empowerment through AB 75: Principals Find That AB 75 Training Helps Them Better Understand the Curriculum and Support Teachers' Instructional Needs


King, Chris, Smoot, Gaye, Leadership


Ronald Reagan once said, "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." Jim Collins, in his book "Good to Great," describes the characteristics of leaders who build enduring greatness in an organization as those who "set up successors for even greater success in the next generation."

What does this have to do with the AB 75 Principal Training Program? Quite a bit. AB 75 is about empowerment as instructional leaders. Districts are empowering principals who, in turn, are empowering teachers and students.

As we reflect back on the first two years of the Principal Training Program and talk with administrators, we are struck by its immediate impact on practice at the school site. Principals and assistant principals, whether veterans or new at their roles, have found the training to be unlike any other that they have experienced. They often relate that they now have a deeper understanding of the curriculum and are better able to converse with teachers about instruction and support their instructional needs.

We are impressed with how districts have supported this professional development opportunity and use it as a key element in a coherent strategy for district-wide focus on improving student achievement. Following are two examples where districts are moving together in a concerted way using AB 75 as a cornerstone for administrators. We also take a look at the trenches--what principals have to say about the empowering effects of AB 75.

Simplify and focus

Bob Bailey, assistant superintendent of Coachella Valley School District in Riverside County, uses the words "simplify and focus" to describe the change that began three years ago. With 15,000 students, 99 percent Hispanic and 80 percent English language learners, the highest mobility rates in the state and API scores in the 300s, Coachella Valley had its share of challenges. When the new, from the ranks superintendent "Tut" Pensis asked the question, "How many different reading programs do we have?" the answer was 27. The district was fragmented. The ensuing strategy was simple in concept but took discipline to implement.

The district began what Bailey calls a "laser-like focus"--purchase teacher-selected, district-wide, standards-based instructional materials at elementary, middle and high school levels (the complete programs), train staff (teachers and administrators), and realign the district's education services division to support mathematics and language arts.

The district is in its third year of training teachers through AB 466, Mathematics and Reading Professional Development. Teacher voluntary participation has been at 99.5 percent three years in a row, serving more than 300 teachers.

Administrators have received training through AB 75 and now are more visible in the classroom, more supportive of teachers because they understand the curriculum, and better able to obtain the resources that teachers really need. They are now part of the curriculum and instruction process and tied into what teachers are doing.

Understanding data and how to use it

The intervention materials contained in the core language arts program are now the content for their summer and after-school programs. And as teachers became familiar with these intervention materials from their adopted program, they began using them in their regular school year classrooms.

AB 75 provides an understanding of assessment data and how to use it. Assessment data in Coachella Valley plays a key role in providing feedback at the district, school and individual teacher level. The results of curriculum-embedded assessments are virtually instantaneous. Tests are scanned and all data resides in a common data management system. Teachers get instant feedback and can examine data on their own. Principals can sit with teachers and review data in grade-level meetings or with individual teachers. …

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