Paradigm Shifts in Educational Leadership Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2551 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership

Educational Leadership

Paradigm Shifts in Educational Leadership: Restructuring Goals/Revising Visions

Student achievement is the goal of education; leadership is the path to its attainment. Time, teams, and, passion are key components in the pursuit of excellence. However, systemic changes are needed to facilitate the creation and continuity of supportive learning environments. This paper reviews relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning opinions and recommendations pertaining to educational leadership. The articles reviewed focused on the principal's role as the agent of success. Included are ideas relative to: administration, time allocation, team building, leadership training, university training, licensure review, and the identification and development of candidates as future principals. A summary of the research and important findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background

The nation's schools are facing profound challenges ranging from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act and increasingly multicultural classrooms. In this environment, identifying more effective approaches to delivering educational services has assumed new importance and relevance for educators. The good news is that effective educational leadership can help overcome these constraints and achieve positive academic outcomes. For example, according to Kelley, Thornton and Daugherty (2005), "Education leadership is possibly the most important single determinant of an effective learning environment" (p. 1). The American education model has evolved over many decades and resulted in effective administrators who routinely discharge administrative duties including budgets, bus schedules, discipline, and meetings. These each require time to perform and, limiting a principal's available time can equate to limiting leadership opportunities. Unfortunately, the administrative burden is growing (for instance the requirements for the No Child Left Behind regulations). This leaves even less time for classroom observation and, by extension, less educational leadership.

School districts realize the importance of effective principals. For example, "The belief that effective school leadership can turn around individual schools and even an entire system has taken hold among a large majority of superintendents and principals. What's more, many say they are doing it: almost 9 in 10 of those superintendents who have moved an effective principal to shake up a low-performing school say their efforts were successful" (Farkas, Johnson & Duffett, 2003, p. 45). Therefore schools need educational leaders who have sufficient time to lead. As O'Neill, Fry, Hill and Bottoms pointed out in Good Principals Are the Key to Successful Schools (2003), "Every school that has leadership results in improved student performance - and leadership begins with an effective school principal" (p. 2). Therefore, it is apparent that preparing principals for assignment must focus on developing leadership skills; with today's challenges, administrative competency is not enough. The challenge now is to define a set of best practices so that goal can be reliably attained.

Challenges and Changes.

Selecting a principal is a difficult endeavor by any measure. The first question to be faced is how to identify potential candidates. It is found that high performing teachers are often the best candidates for principals. These educators have been shown to bring a passion to their classroom and provide inspiration to motivated students. This desire to share knowledge implies collaboration and leadership skills. However, as some educators emphasize, "School districts often are forced to consider candidates from the 'self-select' group. This pool is populated by people with administrative credentials but insufficient preparation to lead schools" (O'Neill, Fry, Hill and Bottoms, 2003, p. 4). Motives for obtaining certification vary; perhaps it is to obtain higher compensation, perhaps it is to leave the classroom, perhaps it is to find job satisfaction in administration well performed. However, the key component of leadership success, a passion for sharing, is often missing. Taken further, these "self-selected," credentialed candidates typically received their master's degree at universities where course content provides few leadership training opportunities. Taken further still, the subsequent licensure process emphasizes "certified administrators" but often does not test practical experience. Therefore, "certification as it exists today is not proof of quality" (O'Neill, Fry, Hill and Bottoms, 2003, p. 2).

Changes required extend to the university setting as well. Some program proponents remain entrenched in status quo. However, university programs should be reevaluated to incorporate practical problem solving and life-like role playing opportunities for aspiring principals. If educational leadership is the key factor for attaining student achievement, then advance preparation is necessary. It is unrealistic to expect freshly appointed principals to garner the requisite interpersonal skills through on-the-job immersion. Class plans are prepared for our students; shouldn't our "principals in training" be provided similar mentoring appropriate to their needs? In addition, mentoring should continue after the principal has been appointed to a school. Leadership can be a lonely experience; a periodic visit by a skilled mentor will provide feedback opportunities for principals based on the real-life experiences encountered. After all, most people benefit when an informed, alternative perspective to is offered for consideration. These are systemic changes required to the training for principal.

Assuming that training improvements have been made, school districts will still need an improved basis of evaluating applicants. Today's certification process should be amended to link licensure to performance. In this regard, O'Neill and his colleagues suggest, "If states want a large pool of highly effective school principals, policymakers need to change the licensure processes and adopt performance indicators that clearly document a school leader's ability to improve student achievement over time" (2003, p. 19). This section, "challenges and changes" listed concerns and recommended changes in the way future principles are identified, trained and certified. The need for systemic change is apparent; however, even when a qualified educational leader is appointed, s/he will still face an ever-increasing demand for time in non-leadership tasks. To be effective, the principal's time must be carefully allocated; educational leadership and the nation's young learners deserve nothing less

Time for Change.

An effective principal is traditionally defined as a person who knows the teachers, knows the students, and ensures that administrative responsibilities are competently discharged. However, it is equally well understood that students benefit when principals can invest time in their support. It is a given that today's increased regulation, testing and reporting, when added to the existing administrative responsibilities can easily overwhelm our principals. For that reason a program is being evaluated, partially funded by the Wallace foundation. Its intent is to recover available time for a principal by hiring an organizational assistant. "With a trained School Administration Manager (SAM) hired to handle the organizational overflow, the principal achieved her goal of getting into every classroom at least once a week to observe teachers and interact with students. Student achievement is the focus, but the only way you're going to move student achievement up is if you allow principals to get directly involved in the instruction and assessment" (Holland, 2008, p. 2). A "SAM," though, is not the only path to increasing available time. The arts of collaboration and facilitation can be used to establish a team that will work towards the intended goal. For example, the effective educational leader employs a variety of approaches to influence direction. Such a leader is not solely "top down" but can also be a collaborator who uses classroom observation to establish a sense of "team" with the classroom teacher. Effective leadership compels higher standards; it does not simply dictate them. Early research by Brookover (1979), Edmonds (1979), and Rutter, Maughn, Mortimore, and Ouston (1979) found that correlates of effective schools include strong leadership, a climate of expectation, an orderly but not rigid atmosphere, and effective communication. These researchers and others suggest that the presence or absence of a strong educational leader, the climate of the school, and attitudes of the teaching staff can directly influence student achievement (Kelley, Thornton & Daugherty, 2005).

The Principal "Collaborator"

The teacher/principal relationship is key to improving the morale of the school environment which in turn creates a supportive student experience. "Coaching" skills and time with a principal / mentor are crucial in assisting new teachers adapt to their chosen profession. As Farkas, Johnson & Duffett (2003), note: "School leaders see room for improvement in the skills and abilities of new teachers entering the profession. In the 2000 Public Agenda study, superintendents and principals had less than stellar reviews of new teachers in a number of areas. For example, only about half said new teachers come into the profession with effective teaching techniques, with talent for motivating students or with the ability to maintain discipline and order in the classroom" (p. 29).

Therefore, provisions must be made to ensure that there is a sufficient amount of time available for the principal to observe new teachers so that together they can enhance the school's classroom environment. Empirical experiences with this approach have yielded positive results. For instance, Holland reports that one teacher, Cherie Altman, noted that their principal is working toward such a dual approach by guiding global changes from the top while developing teachers' talents from the ground up. "Because she routinely observes teachers," Holland points out, the principal is in a good position to "identify common strengths and weaknesses among the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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