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States of Hope

August 30, 2013 by Kerry Ann Moll

We do not hear enough about the great work many educators, parents, and policy makers are engaged in to improve our student’s achievement.  Often these individuals challenge the status quo and offer meaningful proposals to better educational opportunities for all students.

Over the past month, I have been fortunate to meet many of these individuals – the unsung heroes of education reform – by presenting AREL’s work and ideas at two education focused conferences to increase the number of highly effective principals leading our schools.

The first of these two opportunities was at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).  It was here I had the chance to present to numerous state senators and representatives along with their staff interested in positively shaping state policy to support principals and principal preparation.  From Alaska to Florida, these dedicated public servants came with open minds to better our children by improving their schools’ leaders. 

At this meeting, I was given hope by these state representatives who asked thoughtful questions about effective principal preparation and the state and district conditions needed for school leaders to maximize impact.  More inspiring was each participant’s dedication to applying those lessons learned about school leadership to their states

A week later, I experienced the same desire to enhance school leadership at the TN SCORE 2013 Leadership Summit – a Tennessee-wide organization that aims to take its students to the top nationally.  Participants, including state and local policymakers as well as district superintendents and their leadership and university faculty, engaged in conversations about how to make innovative principal preparation programs – like those in AREL’s Network – more accessible in Tennessee.  Like the NCSL, state and district leaders at this summit sought to provide more autonomy for their principals and give school leaders the support needed to have greater impact on student success. 

The positive experiences at NCSL and TN SCORE led me to think about other changes that are occurring in the education leadership space.  Recently, the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) came out with some very forward-thinking proposed standards for teacher and leader preparation.  Many of these proposed standards align with AREL’s core beliefs of what excellent program design should look like, including recruiting a strong and diverse cohort of aspiring educators, partnering with organizations to enhance clinical experiences, demonstrating that graduates are effective with their students, and incorporating program evaluation.   

At the George W. Bush Institute, we believe that learning has to be constant.  And that learning must lead to continuous improvements, not just change for change’s sake.  We are glad to see other leaders sharing the desire to think strategically about education leadership and principals. 

Within the field of education leadership, evolutions have occurred and significant changes have been made.  The job of today’s school leader is vastly different from that of a principal even twenty years ago.  Developments happen in every field, and to continue progressing as a society, preparation, training and skill sets must also advance.  The principalship is no different.  We must now evolve our preparation and policy to ensure this progression is positive for our kids.  With the feeling of hope common in the state leaders I encountered this past month, I have no doubt we will continue to see an increase of focus and action when it comes to our schools and education leaders.