School Leadership: Is the Department Recruiting and Supporting the “Best and the Brightest” School Leaders? and, If Not, Why Not?

Teacher: “All the Leadership Academy does is teach prospective principals with no classroom experience how to get rid of senior teachers.”

Leadership Academy principal: “I must have been out of the room when that was taught – I had to read and discuss scores of books and articles and participate in seemingly endless role-plays and data-analysis sessions, I think we had an hour session with a department attorney – she reviewed legal responsibilities and constantly reminded us to call her for advice, and I’ve been an assistant principal for three years and a classroom teacher for six years.”

The disconnects between teachers and principals are disturbing.

Early in Bloomberg/Klein years the department created the Leadership Academy, and, yes, one thread sought out non-teachers with leadership experience in other sectors. The non-teacher sector was widely criticized and reduced in size and now all candidates must have teaching and leadership experience. The Leadership Programs supported by the department are below:

The DOE is committed to the development and support of new, aspiring, and experienced school leaders. It is our goal to ensure that leaders of our system enhance their capacity, and that we continuously identify aspiring leaders who demonstrate commitment, innovation, and a relentless pursuit to meet the social and academic needs of our students.

Opportunities for Aspiring Principals
Bank Street Principals Institute (PI)
Prepares teachers and guidance counselors for leadership positions in DOE schools with a strong focus on instructional leadership. 18 months, including part- time residency at home school Deadline for 2014-15 nominations is February 10, 2014

Application process is currently open and will close on February 24, 2014 Master’s Degree, Education Leadership

School Building Leader (SBL) certification
Advanced Leadership Program for Assistant Principals (ALPAP) Executive Leadership Institute (ELI)
Prepares strong assistant principals with an opportunity to hone existing skills, and to acquire new skills needed for the position of principal. 1 year Application process will open on March 3, 2014 and closes on May 19, 2014 Certificate of completion
Leaders in Education Apprenticeship Program (LEAP)
Prepares teachers, guidance counselors, and assistant principals to take on school leadership positions within their cluster. 1 year, including part time residency at home school Application process is currently open and closes on January 21, 2014 School Building Leader (SBL) certification

Certificate of completion
New Leaders (NL) Aspiring Principals Program (APP)
Prepares experienced teachers, assistant principals, and/or successful graduates from the New Leaders Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) to become school principals, particularly in high poverty areas. 1 year, including full time residency at host school Application process is currently open and will close on January 30, 2014 School Building Leader (SBL) certification
NYC Leadership Academy (NYCLA) – NYCDOE Leadership Advancement Program (LAP)
Prepares teachers and guidance counselors who currently serve in school-based leadership roles to become school administrators in DOE schools 2 years, including part time residency Application process will open on February 10, 2014 and will close on March 7, 2014 School Building Leader (SBL) certification
NYC Leadership Academy (NYCLA ) Aspiring Principals Program (APP)
Develops and supports individuals with some leadership experience to successfully lead low-performing schools through teamwork, simulated school projects, and a year-long principal internship. 1 year, including half-year residency Application process is currently open

Early Decision deadline is on February 7, 2014

Regular Decision deadline is on March 7, 2014 School Building Leader (SBL) certification (if required)

Certificate of completion
Relay Graduate School of Education (GSE) Instructional School Leadership (ISLP)
This program serves as an entry point for teacher leaders interested in pursuing a path to school leadership with a specific focus on honing strong instructional and cultural leadership skills that drive better outcomes for students. 2 years Application process is currently open and closes on May 15, 2014 Master’s Degree, School Leadership (pending NYSED approval)

School Building Leader (SBL)certification
Summer Principals Academy (SPA), Teachers College -Columbia University
Promotes equity and excellence in education; culminates in the design of a new school. 14 months, including administrative internship at home school Application process is now open and closes on December 15, 2013 (priority deadline) Master’s Degree, Education Leadership

School Building Leader (SBL) certification
Accelerated Master’s Program in Educational Leadership (AMPEL) – Fordham University Graduate School of Education
Prepares highly motivated individuals to become future visionary and instructional leaders, through an intensive but supportive one-year cohort model. 1 year Application process is now open and will close on March 1, 2014 Master’s Degree, Educational Leadership (Administration & Supervision)
School Building Leader (SBL) certification
Assistant Principal Institute (API)
Supports and prepares assistant principals to become principals by honing their skills of observation and feedback, facilitative leadership, and generative professional dialogue. 1 year Application process is currently open and will close on May 19, 2014

School leadership is the key to building effective schools: Are the department-supported and other leadership programs effective in producing principals, and, how do we measure effectiveness?

There are a range of obvious questions; each has been answered by scores of scholarly works,

What qualities are necessary for effective school leadership?

How do you identify candidates who have or may acquire those qualities?

How do you assess whether the leadership program transmitted those qualities to the prospective school leader?

How do you support the school leader in the first few years in charge of a school?

A Public Agenda survey reported, “A staggering 80% of superintendents and 69% of principals think that leadership training in schools of education is out-of-touch with the realities of today’s districts.”

A 2012 Wallace Foundation study tells us,

Too often, training for principals fails to prepare them for the difficult task of guiding schools to better teaching and learning. This Wallace Perspective plumbs foundation research and work in school leadership to identify five lessons for better training, including: more selective admission to training programs, a focus on instructional leadership and mentoring for new principals.

A 2007 Stanford study led by Linda Darling-Hammond examined successful leadership programs from the bottom up – studying highly effective school leaders and the programs that trained the leaders. The programs all shared,

* creating a collaborative learning environment
* planning professional development
* using data to monitor school progress
* engaging the staff in the decision-making process
* leading change efforts
* planning for improvement
* engaging in continuous learning

Classroom teachers continue to be highly critical of the leadership of their schools, and, the specific criticism seems to challenge the implementation of the goals described in the Darling-Hammond report. On the surface the newly issued Chancellor’s Regulation appears to provide a rigorous, inclusive process – the department has re-established an examination for placement in the Principal Pool – watching a video of a lesson and writing an observation report and participating in a facilitated discussion with other candidates of a school based upon a review of the school’s data.

One of the shortcomings of leadership training programs is the selection process for candidates. In the colleges and universities; the primary qualification is the ability to afford the tuition. Programs outside the department commonly accept most of their applicants. The programs consist of traditional college courses, sitting in a classroom and reading articles and textbooks, writing responses and a field supervisor who visits the work site three or four times a year and reviews logs on a regular basis.

The department programs are far more selective; after all, many of them are free.

While completion of the college program qualifies the candidate for the state license an examination is required – however, it is questionable whether the exams are useful, the exams are “administered individually, by computer, during several separate testing window opportunities per year, at Pearson VUE Test Centers throughout New York, as well as at additional testing centers in adjoining states and nationally.”

Senior teachers commonly yearn for the “good old days,” those supervisors of yore. Remember, before the 2002 No Child Left Behind kids only took exams in grades four and eight and over 80% of students in New York City graduated with a local diploma, not a Regents diploma. Graduation rates below 50% in high schools were commonplace and in many schools, especially the harder to staff schools, supervisory classroom observations took place maybe once or twice a year, if at all.

For twenty-seven years, from 1970 to 1997 supervisory appointments were made by community school boards. In the poorest neighborhoods the appointments were wholly political or sometimes required a monetary contribution. A widely distributed surreptitiously filmed video showed a principal complaining, “Just because I bought my job doesn’t mean I’m incompetent.” I knew her – in a very low achieving school in a very poor neighborhood she just stayed in her office and never observed anyone – teachers liked her – and she was grossly incompetent.

Principals are under enormous pressures today to raise scores – the primary means of assessing success. Schools do undergo periodic Quality Reviews, an extremely detailed one to two day review by a superintendent or trained observer. Hundreds of emails end up in a principal’s e-inbox requesting and/or demanding this or that. On one hand the Network Leader or a “visitor” from the State may ask you for your “mission and vision statements” while the ominous “pop-pop” echoes from the housing project down the block. Your best teacher may inform you that, yes; she is accepting that job in the suburbs and a 20k bump in pay. The pressures are never-ending and the “powers that be” frequently only data-driven.

Teaching is a stressful and frustrating job; and school leadership moves the stress and frustration to a higher level. Principals continue to leave at disturbing rates, to calmer and better paying jobs as well as just moving along to less stressful occupations.

In assessing the performance of principals, staffs should play a role – not a simple thumbs up or down, a detailed assessment that is shared with the principal as well as a detailed assessment of the teacher by the school leader. I don’t think “liking” a school leader is important, I think respecting a school leader is important. Generational conflicts are not uncommon, a teacher with thirty years of experience and a new, younger principal – can they mutually respect each other? How do you convince staff, all staff, that continuous learning is important? How do you lead by example not by memo? How do you cajole, prod, and change behavior and practices without creating a toxic culture?

We do not do a good job of selecting, supporting and assessing the performance of school leaders, in my view, especially in selecting.

Just because a teacher says “I want to be a principal” does not mean they have the skills. I’ve met too many young principals lacking leadership skills and too many senior principals who were bullies.

Effective schools require school leaders with the skills to lead – we have to up our game and seek out better candidates and support them on the job.

One response to “School Leadership: Is the Department Recruiting and Supporting the “Best and the Brightest” School Leaders? and, If Not, Why Not?

  1. School Leadership has always (in my opinion) been the deciding factor in evaluating schools that succeed vs those that dont. The primary measuring piece of data for me has always been the question of whether teachers in a particular school are dying to get out, or whether there is a long wait list fro teachers trying to get in. Historically, we know that school Bds throughout the nation have corrupted Principalships, by any number of illicit practises. More recently, over the last 12 years, Bloomburgs Principal Academies diluted the graduate programs in supervision and administration that wre available at any number of creditable NYC universities, ie CCNY,Fordham,
    ST.Johns to name a few. Instead The Mayors Academy run largely by retired school and district leaders from New Jersey, focused on breeding or “back breeding” automatons who had to above all else know how to get rid of people as opposed to creating fertile ground for their development.I have always maintained that given the same neighborhoods whetehr impoverished or not, you can always find schools that succeed and those that dont. Why the discrepancy? Its leadership or lack their of from The Principals Office. And that Principal more likely then not, was put in place owing to any number of the following: cronyism/nepotism, payoffs, political correctness,gender quotas,mayor’s academy,etc. How else does a Principal al la the Far Rockaway,lady who never got in on time, or The Bronx Principal who allowed a class of his best students to go on a field trip to an unsupervised Long Island Beach, ending with tragedy, continue in their positions, even after being fully exposed as culpable? Who put such individuals in The Principals seat? And how many others have they put in Principal’s seats. I have always thought that whenever a new Principal was about to be installed, that their last level of interview, should be before a “Principla’s Clearing House committee, where that committee, doing its due diligence would at the very least function as a vetting agency, approving or not approving of the individual reccomended for the Principalship.Such a committe would ideally be made up of College Professors who have a background in graduate level supervisory programs, included as well would be a number of former superintendends with distinguished records of success as such.


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