From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well

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Make the leap from ordinary to stellar school leadership!

"What can I do to make a difference and lift my school to excellence?" Principals will find answers to this question and other critical leadership issues in this comprehensive resource, which examines how to apply lessons from the private sector to public education. The authors provide templates, implementation tips, and additional resources, and help school leaders discover nine essential characteristics of high-performing "Level 5" leaders through:

  • In-depth discussions and case studies of "star" principals
  • A comparison of principals and corporate leaders, including qualities exclusive to school leadership
  • Reflection questions for more effective application of leadership principles

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Editorial Reviews

John Pieper
"A useful resource for programs dedicated to training new administrators as well as for principals who want to improve the collaborative cultures of their schools. It will drive the thinking of principals and teachers who are committed to school improvement."
Mary Johnstone
"Lots of food for thought. The ideas and strategieswill nudge people in the right direction and help administrators be brave enough to either bring about change or resist change. This would be a good book for a principal study group."
Brenda Dean
"Links Jim Collins’s work to success in the school setting. The examples of the school leaders who were able to lead effective, systemic change are powerful."
Ted Zigler
"This book is timely and hits all the hot topics."
Charles Taylor Kerchner
"These successful principals move beyond platitudes and optimistic denial and learn to face the facts of what is necessary to improve schools—then they do it. Among other things, these star principals learn to work with their teachers and their union rather than around them."
"The authors present evidence that supports a new paradigm for apprenticing school administrators-one that differs from the traditional model of un-researched best practices and standards. School leaders can use this book to inspire activities that will transform their schools and reframe their professional behaviors. "
The Bookwatch
"From qualities shared by superior schools and leaders to applying leadership principles and school-tested routines, this book is packed with insights."
March 2008
"The authors present evidence that supports a new paradigm for apprenticing school administrators-one that differs from the traditional model of un-researched best practices and standards. School leaders can use this book to inspire activities that will transform their schools and reframe their professional behaviors."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412948982
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 2/1/2008
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 7.03 (w) x 10.31 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Penny Gray, PhD has been an educator for more than 40 years in Indiana and California, including 15 years as Director of Curriculum Services for the San Marcos Unified School District in San Marcos, California and 7 years as a member of the Educational Leadership faculty at San Diego State University. During her tenure as Director of Curriculum Services she was responsible for the development, implementation, and maintenance of exemplary programs recognized throughout California in Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, History-Social Science, and Science for grades K through 12. She was also responsible for effective teacher and principal support strategies that during the years under her direction evolved into a powerful system of coaches and facilitators of staff development. Dr. Gray has “walked the talk” in helping principals become truly effective instructional leaders. Her insights give down to earth, practical meaning to the research discussed in this book.

Dr. Gray serves on the San Diego State University (SDSU) Educational Administration Preparation Programs Advisory Committee. In her capacity on this committee and as a current member of the faculty of the Educational Leadership Department in the School of Education at SDSU, she has assisted in implementing changes in that school’s administration preparation program. She has designed and currently teaches an administrative course on instructional improvement through evaluation and supervision. In this course students participate in a walk-through supervision practicum, formal evaluation exercises, and the design of teacher and administrator evaluation systems. In addition, Dr. Gray teaches and coordinates the advanced administrator credentialing program at SDSU and supervises the fieldwork for administrative credential candidates at all levels.

In addition to her involvement with the faculty of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University, Dr. Gray serves as an officer on the Board of Directors of California Curriculum Management Systems, Incorporated (CalCMSi). She is certified to train administrators and teachers in Conducting Walk-Throughs for Higher Student Achievement and has implemented this training in several states across the country. She has also served as an external evaluator of schools and is a certified School Assistance Intervention Team leader for the State of California. She received curriculum management audit training from the California Curriculum Management Audit Center in Burlingame, California, in 1998. Since then she has served on school district audits in California, Washington, Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. She has also served on academic achievement teams conducting comprehensive on-site assessments of the educational operations of school and community college districts in California.

Dr. Gray earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her master’s degree from San Diego State University. In 2006, she received a doctoral degree in educational leadership through the Claremont Graduate University/San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program.

William A. Streshly is Emeritus Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education at San Diego State University (SDSU). Prior to coming to SDSU in 1990, he spent 25 years in public school administration, includingfive years as principal of a large suburban high school and 15 years as superintendent of several California school districts varying in size from 2,500 to 25,000 students.

In addition to his numerous publications in the professional journals, Dr. Streshly is author or co-author of five practical books for school leaders, The Top Ten Myths in Education, Avoiding Legal Hassles (two editions), Teacher Unions and Quality Education, Preventing and Managing Teacher Strikes, and From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well.

Currently, Professor Streshly is a Senior Lead Auditor for Curriculum Management Systems, Inc., an affiliate of Phi Delta Kappa International. He has audited the instructional operations of more than 40 school districts in 16 states. His intense interest in the role of effective school leadership stems from his own extensive experience as well as his in-depth observation of the work of hundreds of practicing school principals across the country.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Foreword by Marge Hobbs
About the Authors
1. We Know What to Do, so Why Do We Fail?
The "Good to Great" Research Project
Leadership Characteristics of Level 5 Executives
Leadership Behaviors of Level 5 Executives
Two Behaviors From the Collins Study
Great School Executives Build Relationships
The School Principals in Our Study
Leadership Qualities Exhibited
2. First, Build Relationships
A Behavior Different From the Behaviors of the Level 5 Executive
Mr. Bond and Field Elementary School
Highly Successful Principals and Building Relationships
Comparison Principals and Building Relationships
Suggestions for Principals
3. Exercise Your Professional Will, but Stay Humble
Issues With Identifying Personal Humility in School Principals
Personal Humility: The Evidence Differs
Shy and Self-Effacing Leaders
Unreserved and Enthusiastic Leaders
Comparison Principals
Suggestions for Principals
4. Credit Others, Accept the Blame
Additional Data for Compelling Modesty
Evidence for Sustainability of Greatness
Evidence for Compelling Modesty
Mr. Unpretentious and Bay View Elementary School
Highly Successful Principals and Compelling Modesty
Comparison Principals and Compelling Modesty
Suggestions for Principals
5. Be Ambitious First for the School's Success
Ambition for the Success of the School Is Key
Ms. Aspiration and Mission Elementary School
Highly Successful Principals and Ambition for the School's Success
Comparison Principals and Ambition for the School's Success
Suggestions for Principals
6. Resolve to Do What Needs Doing . . . Then Do It!
Application of Unwavering Resolve to Schools
Ms. Persevere and Mountain High Elementary School
Comparison Principals and Resolve
Suggestions for Principals
7. Get the Right People on the Bus
School Leaders' Difficulties in Getting the Right People
An Example of Getting the Right People
Highly Successful Principals and "First Who . . . Then What"
Comparison Principals and "First Who . . . Then What"
Suggestions for Principals
8. Confront the Brutal Facts
Schools Face Challenges
Brutal Facts Tackled by the Principals in Our Study
Highly Successful Principals and Confronting the Brutal Facts
Comparison Principals and Confronting the Brutal Facts
Suggestions for Principals
9. Know What Drives Your Educational Engine and Be Passionate About It
Academics Take Issue
Our Term: Educational Engine
Mr. Focus and Pines Elementary School
Highly Successful Principals and the Hedgehog Concept
Comparison Principals and the Hedgehog Concept
Suggestions for Principals
10. Build a Culture of Discipline
The Concept Is Not New
Difficulties in Achieving a Culture of Discipline
Ms. Discipline and Eagle Elementary School
Highly Successful Principals and a Culture of Discipline
Comparison Principals and a Culture of Discipline
Suggestions for Principals
11. Know Commonalities and Differences Between Public Schools and the Private Sector
Disparities Between Public Schools and the Private Sector
What We Have Learned From the Research on Leadership
Suggestions for Principals
12. Support Research-Based Principal Preparation
The ISLLC Standards
The Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
In Search of Excellence
Beware of Business Norms
Administrator Preparation Program Reform
A Final Comment
Suggestions for Architects of Principal Preparation Programs
Resource A: Research Methodology
Resource B: Interview Participant Selection
Resource C: Principal Interview Questions Derived From Collins' (2001) CEO Interview Questions and Demographic Questionnaire
Suggested Readings
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