The Principal Challenge: Leading and Managing Schools in an Era of Accountability / Edition 1

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Based on two years of research supported by Carnegie Corporation ofNew York, The Broad Foundation, and the New Schools Venture Fund,The Principal Challenge focuses directly on the causes andcures of the crisis in school leadership. Marc Tucker, JudyCodding, and a stellar list of experts from the United States andabroad paint a revealing portrait of what it means to be aprincipal now, how and why most graduate schools of education havefailed to provide the training principals need, what the militaryand business sectors do to create and support their leaders andmanagers, what the state of the art in professional training lookslike, what other nations are doing to address this problem, and howto apply the very best practices in the world to solve the crisisin school leadership.

This book is honest and hard-hitting. And it offers realisticsolutions. Based on the thorough analysis provided by the chapterauthors, the editors of The Principal Challenge offer animaginative proposal for a new kind of institution that will trainschool principals to be turn-around artists. Drawing on the newforms of executive development programs in our business schools,they propose a similar program for school principals. The approachinvolves a close collaboration between the new institution andentire school districts, combining face-to-face instruction withweb-based delivery. The innovative curriculum they describe, likethe best approaches in business and industry, uses carefullydeveloped cases, simulations, games, action projects, seminars andjournaling, The editors offer a clear conception of what it mightmean to be an instructional leader, a way of thinking about what ittakes for a principal to be a strategic thinker, an approach thatprincipals can use to take advantage of the best current thinkingon knowledge management and professional development, a conceptionof the principal as school designer, an emphasis on the use of datato drive planning, and a host of tested ideas that principals canuse to lead their schools to better results.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A penetrating analysis of today's whopping school leadershipcrisis, and a wake-up call for a revolution in principalpreparation. Filled with provocative ideas on how to address thedemands for unprecedented improvement in student performance."—Jerome Murphy, professor of education and former dean, HarvardGraduate School of Education

"The Principal Challenge does a brilliant job ofchronicling the failure of our school districts and our schools ofeducation to prepare school principals for the job ahead. This bookis both a stimulus for action and a handbook of new models forleadership development. Everyone who wants public education tosucceed should read it." —John C. Fryer, Jr., superintendent,Duval County Schools, Florida and former commandant, National WarCollege

"This panoramic view of the principalship is powerful. Not onlydoes this book present issues few are willing to openly discuss, itlays out solutions. It is a must-read for everyone interested inthe future of our kids." —Patricia A. Harvey, superintendent,Saint Paul, Minnesota Public Schools

"For too long, the heart of educational leadership has beenneglected. This book provides a welcome transfusion. The coeditorsare obviously well grounded in both theory and practice. Theircritique of schools of education is right on target." —TerranceDeal, Irving R. Melbo Scholar, Rossier School of Education,University of Southern California

"The Principal Challenge represents a ray of hope and avoice of reason for principals, who are under enormous pressurefrom states, localities, and communities to produce results indemanding circumstances. There are few jobs today with as many andas divergent responsibilities as that of a principal. A new visionof the principalship is required, and The PrincipalChallenge delivers." —Maria Tukeva, principal, BellMulticultural High School, Washington, D.C.

"The strategies in this book come down to one simple piece ofadvice: offer better preparation for the future leaders of ourschools." (American School Board Journal, 4/03)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787964474
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/20/2002
  • Series: Jossey-Bass Education Ser.
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Marc S. Tucker is president of the National Center on Education andthe Economy. A leader of the national standards movement, he iscoauthor of the prize-winning book Thinking for a Living andStandards for Our Schools.

Judy B. Codding is an award-winning former high school principal.She is now vice president of programs for the National Center onEducation and the Economy and coauthor with Tucker of Standards forOur School.

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Read an Excerpt

The Principal Challenge

Leading and Managing Schools in an Era of Accountability

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-6447-6

Chapter One

Preparing Principals in the Age of Accountability

Marc S. Tucker, Judy B. Codding

Why would anyone want the job of principal? Many school principals we know have the look these days of the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Almost overnight, it seems, they have been caught in the high beams of the burgeoning accountability movement. Now as never before, the public and all the organs of government are insisting that student academic performance improve-and fast. The federal government is putting ever-increasing pressure on the states to that end. The states, in their turn, are busy creating incentives for local boards and superintendents to raise school performance. And the local boards and superintendents are wasting no time in putting as much pressure as they can on the principals. And there it rests.

The principal experiences this set of pressures as a vise that is closing fast. The expectation that the principal will lead the school to levels of student achievement that are unprecedented for that school, for students from that social background, for children for whom English is not their native language, with budgets that meager-all this seems to be the stuff of fantasy for the principal in the vise. If the principal and faculty had known how to produce unprecedented improvements in student performance before, they would have doneit. What, they want to know, makes anyone think they can do it now, with little or no more money than they had before?

This enormous challenge is the icing on a cake that is, on the whole, not very appetizing to begin with.

The life of the principal is very different from the life of an average faculty member (see Chapter Eight). The typical principal supervises thirty professionals and fourteen support staff. There is no assistant principal in his school. This means that the average principal is responsible for a span of control six to ten times what is normal in private industry.

All day long, faculty, staff, and parents are making a beeline for the principal's office to resolve the problems they face. The result is a day-say, for a typical high school principal-that is a headlong dash that begins at 7:00 or 7:30 A.M. and does not end until 10:00 or 10:30 P.M. The principal's daily diary reflects a calendar set by everyone else. Typical entries would contains entries like these: "met with angry parent," "served with lawsuit," "met with grievance panel," "met with parent demanding that her son's grades be raised to level needed to get into college," "met with fire inspector on safety code violation," "attended expulsion hearing," "met with parent demanding that her daughter have a different English teacher," "visited classrooms (interrupted after fifteen minutes by emergency, unable to return)" ... and the list goes on like that through dinner until the varsity basketball game is over in the evening.

Note that precious little of this day has to do with instruction. Principals refer to themselves as "one-minute decision makers" because they have a minute to decide one issue before they are confronted with the next one. Besides having to deal with the stress produced by this situation, the typical principal works an average sixty-hour workweek, compared to forty-five hours for the typical teacher.

So you would expect the principal to make comparably more, right? Wrong! Because principals have less political power and public support than teachers, teachers' salaries have been rising faster than principals' salaries. So although it looks as though principals earn more than teachers when you compare annual salaries, when you take into account the fact that principals are generally on a full-time schedule and the teachers generally work ten months a year, the hourly salary rate for principals is often actually lower than for teachers.

As the years have gone by and public trust in professional educators has turned to public disgust, the support that the principal used to get from parents and the community has evaporated, replaced by what seems like a constant battle, an endless series of demands that often easily escalate into abuse, from which there is no escape.

Over the past decade or so, many states have adopted some form of school site governance. The lofty goal was to relocate control of the school from the central office to the school itself and to share the enhanced power at the school level among a wider group of constituencies, to give them a greater sense of ownership and make the school work better. But the principal, a wry smile playing on her face, will tell you that it did not work out that way. The central office has as much control as ever over the budget, the curriculum, hiring, firing, and the assignment of key leadership positions in the school. The only difference from how it used to be is that the meager power the principal used to have must now be shared with a school site council composed mainly of teachers and parents who are happy to exercise whatever power they can get but who will take none of the responsibility for the outcome. So the principal has even less authority than before while being expected to accept much more responsibility.

The result is predictable. Principals are bailing out, and the pool of candidates willing to replace them is drying up at an alarming rate. Some schools with which we are familiar have recently gone six months or more without a principal because no one with even the bare minimum qualifications could be found for the post. This is not because no one has the formal qualifications. Getting the qualifications is one of the easiest ways to advance on the salary scale as a teacher or assistant principal. So there is a large pool of people who have the formal qualifications but who do not want the job. And who can blame them? Who would want a job that appears to be impossible, is thankless, and pays no more than other jobs in the same field that make more modest demands on one's time and psychic energy?

This situation would be regarded with alarm in the best of times. That is, it is always a problem when the supply of people seeking a key position falls below the demand. The only options available are to make the job more attractive, typically by raising salaries or lowering the qualifications. In education, time out of mind, we have usually done the latter, rarely the former. But consider where the country is right now. What we need are not just people who are willing to do the job and meet the minimum qualifications, even though these criteria would be hard enough to meet in many places at the moment. No, the job is no longer simply to "keep school," the job we have trained principals for over the decades. Today we need people who can do a job we have never advertised before, a job that currently serving principals were never expected to do. We need people who can lead and manage the school to much higher levels of student achievement at little or no increase in cost, in an environment in which they have much less control over the key factors that determine the outcome than similarly situated leaders and managers in most other fields. That is a very tall order.

Having said that, we are now in a position to break the challenge apart into its constituent components.

Making the Job Doable

First, the job itself must be made doable. This challenge has at least two dimensions: the structure of the job and the authority that it carries.

We have run focus groups of principals from many different kinds of schools and communities. The message is clear: the principals now in the job believe that they ought to be instructional leaders-that shaping the instructional program and providing effective guidance to the faculty in making the instructional program as effective as possible is the heart of the job. But the principals we talked to from the most advantaged communities told us that they could not possibly spend more than 40 percent of their time on instruction-too little, they think, to do what now needs to be done. And the principals of schools serving low-income inner-city schools just laughed. They spend all of their time dealing with emergencies. Attending to instruction, they say, is a luxury they cannot afford.

The fact is that one person can no longer do all that needs to be done. It is best then to talk about the "principalship," a function carried out by two or more people that involves providing the leadership the school now needs as well as the management needed to organize and administer the school at the top level. Among the possible configurations in a small school is providing the principal with a business manager who takes over many of the administrative duties. In a larger school, the job might be divided among a principal, a chief academic officer, and a chief of operations, or it might be given to a principal (or teacher) assisted by a business manager and a chief of staff. In a very large high school, it might involve multiple principals: one who is responsible for the physical plant and administrative services and a number of others, each in charge of an autonomous academic program, assisted in each case by a chief of staff or business manager.

There are many other possible configurations for the division of responsibilities among two or three individuals, but almost any conceivable arrangement is going to cost more money, which will have to be offset by savings made elsewhere in the system.

Note that the principal is the instructional leader in most of these configurations but not all of them. This is very important for everything that follows in this chapter. When we speak of the principal as instructional leader and when we describe a curriculum intended to develop the skills and knowledge needed by the principal acting in the role of instructional leader, we hope you will bear in mind this idea of the principalship and the possibility that the role of instructional leader may be played by someone other than the person who holds the title of principal. We have already noted that the environment in many urban schools is that the principal, no matter who is at his right and left hand, will have little time left for instruction after dealing with the inevitable daily ration of emergencies. A school district that ignores this reality and requires its principals to personally be the instructional leaders in every case may do so at its peril. Nevertheless, no matter which member of the leadership team performs this function, the principal should get the training for instructional leadership that we describe here, because it is essential that the principal understand this function and be able to support it knowledgeably, even if someone else is actually doing it.

Making Authority Commensurate with Responsibility and Accountability

There is another respect in which the job must be made more doable: the principal must have authority that is commensurate with her responsibility and accountability.

Imagine that you are the principal, this person who is being asked to produce great improvements in student achievement. You cannot select your staff. You cannot fire anyone who is already on your staff. You cannot award or withhold a bonus from anyone. Seniority rights for teachers means that overnight, you can lose people you have made an enormous investment in and have them replaced by people who couldn't care less about your agenda. You may have little control over the instructional materials that are used. Someone else controls the training agenda. Someone else controls how all but a small amount of your regular budget is spent. Someone else controls how the federal program money will be spent. Some people who work in your school report directly to people in the central office rather than to you. In some systems, you do not even have the right to assign teachers to classes because teachers' seniority rights govern assignment. Yet despite all this, if your students do not make progress on the state accountability measures, your school is likely to be put on a public list of low-performing schools. If performance does not improve, your school could be closed, the faculty disbanded, and you fired. You will be held responsible for the whole mess.

It is absolutely unreasonable to hold the principal accountable for student performance when that person has little or none of the authority needed to get the job done. No major corporation that expected to stay in business, no military unit of any size, no government agency that has earned the respect of the public would expect its executives to function successfully without the authority to get the job done.

State legislatures and school districts will have to deal with these issues, and it will not be easy, because others will have to cede authority to principals for this situation to be rectified. And it won't happen overnight.

So what can be done now to address the problems we have described? In answering this question, we should bear in mind that the low pay relative to teachers, the heavy supervisory load, the long hours, and much else that we have described as characteristics of the job have been with us for quite a while, though most of these problems have slowly been worsening in recent years. What has brought the situation to the crisis point has been the enormous anxiety and burdens brought on by the public's demand for greatly improved student performance.

A Historical Parallel

At first glance, the idea that schools and principals in particular should be held accountable for greatly raising student performance without the prospect of commensurately large increases in school budgets is simply unreasonable and should therefore be dismissed. But before we come to rest on that conclusion, it is important to remind ourselves of the situation that American business faced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

American corporations virtually overnight found themselves facing unprecedented challenges from first Europe and then Asia. Their foreign competitors were bringing products to our shores that were of higher quality, were typically much more customized to individual customer needs and requirements, came to market much earlier in response to swiftly changing consumer tastes, and to the astonishment and dismay of American companies, often carried prices that were lower than the cost to the American firms of manufacturing the product, not counting the additional costs of marketing, sales, inventory, and transportation, to say nothing of profit.

The short of it was that the American firms either found a way to greatly increase quality and bring their new products to market faster and do it all for a lower cost and price-or go out of business.


Excerpted from The Principal Challenge Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents



The Editors.

The Contributors.

1. Preparing Principals in the Age of Accountability (Marc S.Tucker, Judy B. Codding).

Part One: Roles of the Principal.

2. What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning (PeterW. Hill).

3. The Principal as Moral Leader (Thomas Sobol).

Part Two: Best Practices in the T raining of Leaders, Managers, andOther Professionals in Business, the Military, and Beyond.

4. Best Practices in Leadership Development: Lessons from the BestBusiness Schools and Corporate Universities (Marie Eiter).

5. Professional Military Education: A Serious Enterprise forLeaders (Robert C. Hughes, Richard Haney).

6. Models of Preparation for the Professions: Implications forEducational Leadership (Gary Sykes with Cheryl King and JeanniePatrick).

Part Three: An International Perspective.

7. Mission Possible? An International Analysis of Training forPrincipals (Brian J. Caldwell, Gerard T . Calnin, Wendy P.Cahill).

Part Four: A Current Situation Report: Preparing School Principalsin the United States.

8. The Work of P rincipals and Their P reparation: AddressingCritical Needs for the Twenty-First Century (Carolyn Kelley, KentD. Peterson).

9. Principal In-Service Programs: A Portrait of Diversity andPromise (Kent D. Peterson, Carolyn Kelley).

10. Associations and the Principalship: A History of Advocacy, aHorizon of Opportunity (Gerald N. Tirozzi).

Appendix A: The National Institute for School Leadership: Designfor a New Institution to Train School Leaders.

Appendix B: People Consulted in the Design of the NationalInstitute for School Leadership.


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