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Why Every Kid Deserves a Great Principal

February 1, 2013 by Patrick Kobler

Recently, I received an emailed letter from a former student – two simple paragraphs that reinforced my belief that every child has the ability not only to learn, but also to lead.   This is the rule, not the exception, and the reason our children deserve effective principals.  It is humbling to work alongside the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) Network, as its members share the same passion for students and those charged with leading their schools. Reading the now-young adult’s email, I am struck by the significant progress he has made in a considerably short amount of time.  When I first met him, he was a disinterested high school student who sat at the back of the room, unable to formulate a coherent paragraph.   Two academic semesters later, he now demonstrates the rules of grammar and provides well-formatted paragraphs as he writes.  If he were still my student, I would give his letter an “A.” And while I am proud of the student’s academic progress, I am even more proud of his growth in leadership and commitment to his community.  The kid, who once seemed disinterested, now describes how he wants to “make a difference in my community.”  He is excited to write and tell me about his new internship that affords him the opportunity to “raise this community of mine to better grounds.”  The student, who once could not write a paragraph, now engages in journalism and intends to use his writing to “make a difference for not just my family, but for my community.”  He is an emerging a passionate leader of his community - the type of young adult who will one day make things better for communities and people across the nation. Reflecting on the student’s letter, I am left to believe that effective school leadership could have made a transformational difference in his life, and at a much earlier age.  There are many students just like him, a deep cave of potential waiting to be excavated.  But too many of our children are restricted from opportunity because they do not receive the quality of instruction, accountability and school leadership they deserve.  There exists an endless discussion on why this is, but for me and AREL, it is largely a matter of “principal.” My former student’s leadership reinforces my belief in AREL’s work - because principals matter in the lives of our children.  Imagine where he could already be if he had an effective principal at the onset of his education.   For the kids like him, who are not getting the education they deserve, we must find ways to better recruit, prepare and empower our Nation’s principals.  It could be the difference between a kid sitting in the back of the classroom and kid who matures committed not only to his own empowerment, but the empowerment of those around him. My student’s letter proves every student can learn and every child can lead.  This is a rule, but too often it is seen as an exception.  To change this course, every child needs a great principal, with the ability to raise student achievement and the empowerment to do so.

This blog was written by Patrick Kobler, Program Coordinator for The Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) at the George W. Bush Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKobler