Effective School Leadership

By Reese, Susan | Techniques, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Effective School Leadership


Reese, Susan, Techniques


Forty years after President Kennedy noted the connection, The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) stated in its publication Leadership Matters: Building Leadership Capacity that "Leadership promotes learning."

But what goes into making an effective school leader?

James Little is director of Indiana's Kokomo Area Career Center as well as vice president of the ACTE Administration Division, and he has found that being a quality leader requires exceptional communication, negotiation and time management skills.

"As a building administrator, I have also been able to recognize those crucial skills in my classroom instructors, because I see them in operation on a daily basis," says Little. "As a career and technical education administrator, I have always felt that it is extremely important to be able to identify those potential leaders in our system and try to develop and support them in such a way as to allow them to grow and rise to their potential."

The SREB publication explores three strategies that it has found are used by leaders in schools that are increasing student learning:

* modeling learning, in which school leaders exhibit the behavior they want teachers to display;

* providing compelling reasons for others to learn (encouraging high expectations of students and high-level teaching for staff); and

* creating a coaching environment for continuous growth that is safe, positive and supportive.

Truly effective school leadership should not be the responsibility of one individual, however; it should be a cooperative effort involving a number of individuals--from the state level to the district level to the classroom.

A study released last year by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington found that the principal need not be the standard-bearer in all areas of leadership. Commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, the study included interviews with 150 educators--among them principals, vice principals and teachers--in 21 schools. The schools were public, private, elementary, secondary, traditional and charter schools.

According to results of the study, which were released in the report, Making Sense of Leading Schools, schools need leadership in seven critical areas: instructional, cultural, managerial, human resources, strategic, external development and micropolitical. However, while principals are responsible for ensuring leadership occurs in all seven areas, they need not be the ones providing it all. For example, a veteran teacher might take on the responsibility for instructional leadership.

If a school is lucky enough to have an inspiring and innovative principal who is able to make positive changes at a school, what happens when that principal leaves? That's the question addressed in "The Seven Principles of Sustainable Leadership," an article that appeared in the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's (ASCD) April 2004 Educational Leadership.

According to authors Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink, sustainable leadership means planning and preparing for succession from the first day of a leader's appointment, and one way to provide a lasting legacy is to ensure that others share and help develop the vision.

The Ohio Center for Effective Schools has addressed steps in building effective schools and cites the role of effective and lasting leadership in school reform. The center notes that, within the last decade, school reformers have come to recognize that the scope of leadership and responsibility for school reform facilitation has widened to include not just the principal, but teacher leaders as well. These teacher leaders serve as role models and offer support and encouragement to other teachers.

Leadership in CTE

In addition to dealing with the school reform and accountability faced by all K-12 schools today, career and technical education institutions have other issues of importance that a strong leader can facilitate--for example, those ever-important business and industry partnerships. …

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