Academic journal article Education

The Recruitment and Selection of Principals Who Increase Student Learning

Academic journal article Education

The Recruitment and Selection of Principals Who Increase Student Learning

Article excerpt

In today's economic environment, business and industry must respond to rapidly changing global dynamics with actions and practices that work or risk obsolescence. The educational community finds itself in much the same situation. The fact that students in the United States perform at lower academic levels than their international counterparts is real (Gonzales, et al., 2008) and is an ongoing topic of the media as well as coffee shop and ballpark conversations. The transformation of schools into institutions of deep learning rather than places of compliance, low-level surface learning, and memorization will require a shift in focus for communities, parents, educators, and students.

Recent research has shown that principal leadership is the second most important contributor, after instructional quality, to student learning and achievement in school (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). Effective principal leadership, in fact, significantly increases student achievement (Waters, Marzano, & McNulty, 2004). Because of the impact of principal leadership on student achievement, superintendents and school boards must hire principals who know how to lead schools in which students consistently achieve high academic standards.

However, as superintendents and school boards have experienced, recruiting and hiring effective principals are extraordinarily difficult responsibilities. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2010-2011), new jobs for school principals will continue to increase by approximately ten percent through 2020 as a result of growth in enrollments of school-aged children. At the same time, large numbers of retirements and fewer applicants for these critical and challenging positions are due in part to the increased pressures and complexities of the job (Farkas, Johnson, Duffett, & Foleno, 2001). These interacting elements combine to result in increased job openings and a shortage of experienced, effective principals.

Another obstacle to hiring effective principals is the lack of useful predictors of principal effectiveness. Customary methods of recruitment, selection, and appointment of principals often do not address past performance in the specific areas that directly impact student achievement. A Wallace Foundation study of 66 principal evaluation instruments found no evaluation of the principal in the area of engagement with the curriculum in 26 of the instruments, and no mention of the quality of the curriculum (Goldring, Porter, Murphy, Elliott, & Cravens, 2007). In addition, traditional interview questions are often generic in nature and include little substance about student learning. All of these impediments to the recruitment and selection of principals increase the risk that an ineffective candidate will be selected as the new principal. If the intent is to hire a principal with the capacity to lead students to higher achievement levels, selection criteria and candidate evaluation must be based on research of best leadership practices.

Critical Practices of Effective Principals Who Improve Student Learning

Effective principal-leaders strategically demonstrate practices that transform schools into institutions of learning and improved student performance (Waters et al., 2004). Ash and Hodge (2012) identified critical practices demonstrated by effective principal-leaders that transform schools into institutions of learning and improved student performance. Extensive observations of principals, interviews with principals who have significantly increased student learning in their schools, case studies, and an analysis of research support these critical practices and skills of effective principal leadership to improve student learning. The critical practices are listed below.

1. Focus on the direction

2. Build a powerful organization

3. Give life to data

4. Ensure student-focused vision and action

5. …

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