Principal Effectiveness Serving Essay

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Principal Effectiveness

Serving as an Effective Principal

The role of the public school principal is highly pressurized, often impeded upon by a diverse set of political demands and beset by constant challenges relating to budgetary, parental, educational and community-based conditions. This means that the training and qualifications which enter into the position are increasingly rarified, as are the candidates willing to take on the high-stress job. Indeed, the pool of talent for principalship is relatively small relative to the number of positions requiring qualified candidates. It is therefore of critical importance that the educational community develop a meaningful set of standards for how best to attain effective performance both from existing principals and from those aspiring to enter into a challenging field. As the discussion hereafter will demonstrate, there is a critical need for reconsideration of the standards related to No Child Left Behind and for a shift of our focus toward more effective career development, more organizational consistency and a refined focus on distributed leadership.

First and foremost, it is useful to discuss the role of the principal as it has changed over time. Effectiveness in this role must begin from a better understanding of how this role has evolved. The educational field is today invaded by a set of pressures which did not exist just a few years ago. Ferrandino (2001) writes about the subject of the principalship over the transition into the 21st century, which saw the inception of our current policy approach. Ferrandino analyzes the job itself and notes that being a principal today is far different than it was even 20 years ago. Principals work longer hours, have responsibility for a much broader community of pupils and staff (that is, pupils and staff from a diversity of cultures), are required to be far more politically savvy, and have to meet a much broader range of demands.

Ferrandino's (2001) research addresses the claim that too many principals are soon due for retirement and that there are insufficient numbers of teachers and educators with the training, education, and qualification to replace this aging workforce. (p. 441). The author poses and addresses the question as to why there appears to be shortage of qualified candidates for such positions. In resolution, the article finds that many potential candidates do not want to cope with the inherent pressures of leadership and the requisite long hours of the job. According to the survey research gathered in the Ferrandino essay, the politicization of the academic process has become a deterrent for many serious and qualified candidates. The issues provoked by the rigid and penalty driven No Child Left Behind legislation are played out today in the administrative conflicts which shape education as we know it, with the principal at the center of disputes. And quite indeed, as pedagogical approaches clash with each, more in the way of direct leadership is expected of principals than ever before. To some extent, this is causing many to shy away from even applying for the position.

Ferrandino (2001) notes that this is not simply a problem of a shortage of candidates, but implies that which is at the crux of research, that there are institutional shortcomings which have disinclined a proper pool of effective principals. The complexity of leadership demands in the position are dominant in either disinclined candidates or rendering the position too exclusive, suggesting that the most effective of candidates will be those with the readiness to take these challenges on. This endorses a view of the principalship as in a constant state of flux. The most effective principal is one who is willing to evolve as the role reveals itself. The notion of job development is of critical importance to such an endeavor. The text by Whitaker (1996) remarks that effective principalship is something which must be maintained through long-term job development. The role is constantly changing and the various pressures which are affiliated with the office bring new and unexpected challenges at every turn. Constant exposure to shifts in pedagogical emphasis, participation in innovative workshops and continuing engagement of curricular improvements should be a part of the principals job description. Quite in fact, a failure to retain these traits may be a direct contributor to the drop-off in able and qualified candidates in the field. To this point, Whitaker warns of principal burnout and indicates that this is a common pitfall of the politically charged position. Therefore, Whitaker denotes "the need for more support systems, greater professional development opportunities, and the need to prepare principals better for the realities of the job." (Whitaker, p. 60)

Unfortunately, these interests have been largely overshadowed in recent years by legislative prioritization of standardized testing and aggressive evaluation of schools, teachers and principals. These instruments of evaluation have been used as a way of measuring the effectiveness of principals. However, the degree to which they have successfully done so. According to Dr. Reeves, though external evaluations have generally been received positively by the principals evaluated, they tend to be less useful in constructing more effective service to the office. Accordingly, Lashway (2003) reports that "a nationwide survey by Reeves found that principals agreed that their evaluations were generally positive (89%), accurate (79%), and consistent with job expectations (76%). However, fewer (around 60%) found the evaluation process had improved their performance or motivation, and only 47% said their evaluations were specific enough to know what behaviors should be changed. While there is little evidence that either principals or their districts see evaluation as a major problem area, neither is there any indication that it plays a significant role in school improvement efforts." (Lashway, p. 1)

Thus, it cannot be said that the modes of external evaluation that are currently in fashion have had any real role in the effectiveness of principalship. More important is the manner in which the principal conducts his or herself as an organizational leader. Accordingly, one research perspective suggests that the effectiveness of the principal is largely a function of how effectively his or her leadership drives the school as an organization. This denotes that the model for principal leadership must be centered on consistency and the dissemination a unified practice. Marzano (2009) contends that "the educational field is lacking a common language/model of instruction to describe effective teaching. Having a comprehensive model in which everybody talks about teaching in the same way communicates a message that "we are serious about good teaching, we talk about teaching in this way, we expect you to think about teaching in this way and to use this model to examine your strengths and weaknesses and create a platform to allow for real reflective practice. In this way, the school or district becomes a place where you get better at teaching." (p. 7)

This brings us to consider the process by which the effective principal develops and hones his or her skills as a leader even within the context of the current legislation. Echols (2006) argues that the face of the American classroom is changing radically and there is a need to respond practically to these changes. The primary change is that American classrooms are increasingly responsible to federal programs and public officials in their adherence to performance standards. Thus, there is a need for educational administrators who can understand and respond to the needs potentially represented by a failure to meet these standards. One of the best ways to develop such knowledge and skill sets is to seek a positive mentor in the field. Research denotes that effective principals can often cite a mentor who helped them to refine the necessary skills to serve in the position. Indeed, "according to Gardiner, Enomoto and Grogon, (2000) successful school principals are often mentored by professionals who have a vested interest in their well-being. Mentoring is characterized as an active, engaged, and intentional relationship between two individuals (mentor and protege) based upon mutual understanding to serve primarily the professional needs of the protege. Quality mentoring relationships can be distinguished by certain ways of relating, by expectations and parameters placed on the relationship that serve to promote the proteges professional success and well-being." (Echols, 1) Echols suggests that it is especially important for in the career development of a school principal to have a mentor that is experienced in the role of leadership but who recognizes the ways in which the profession is constantly evolving. This type of support can help the individual to take on an incredibly challenging array of responsibilities.

In many ways, Echols argues, effective mentoring during career development can help one overcome the effect of political limitations, with the honing of one's own abilities creating leadership confidence that can ultimately translate to teacher and student confidence in the principal's stewarding abilities. As Echols contends, "self understanding can create a connectedness to other principals, students, other school constituents, and the world." (Echols, 1) Effective mentoring and self-knowledge will help the principalship candidate learn how to effectively delegate authority. This is a consistently recognized demand through much of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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