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The Overlooked Role of the School Principal
In the 1960s when Congress was debating the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Senator Robert Kennedy astutely worried that principals may not be able to effectively implement the policies enshrined in the act. He argued for a safeguard of measurement and accountability so that parents would be empowered to know if and when their child’s school was getting it right.
What has happened since then? We know that principal preparation in the United States needs work. We have shown that teachers stay longer in schools where there is an effective principal . And we know that the longer a principal stays in the role, the more effective he or she can be.
Districts play a powerful role in keeping and supporting their best principals. Refining and updating talent management systems is not easy in any business—and that is particularly true for school systems. But improved systems are exactly what districts need.
A systems approach means that we connect the entire career trajectory of a principal — from preparation, to learning and evaluation, to compensation and incentives, to working conditions. The role of the principal has changed, and now requires more skill, talent, and time than ever.
As a result, district leaders need to carefully consider what their principals should be doing on a day-to-day basis. Should they be creating busy schedules and managing inventory, or should they be coaching teachers and building parent and community ties? Also, districts need to use data to figure out where their best principals are trained, and why their best principals stay in or leave the role.
Most important, district leaders need to be sure that their policies are enabling the practices they want to see — principals who fit well in the school they lead, who know how to effectively coach their staff, and who stay in their role as long as possible. Our Principal Talent Management Framework is a good place to start when thinking through this system-wide approach.
There is a lot of rhetoric right now about what our schools need to improve. I see this as an opportunity to make good decisions for kids. What can’t be lost in the discussion, though, is a focus on what we know. We know great principals matter, and our policymaking needs to reflect that reality.
Eva Myrick Chiang, serves as Director of Research and Evaluation for the Bush Institute. She also works on the School Leadership Initiative and provides support in other areas of the education reform initiative as well.
Prior to joining the George W. Bush Institute, she taught pre-k through college level students in a variety of teaching roles in private, public, and charter schools, and her passion is teaching students to read. She has been a trainer of teachers, and most recently she held the position of Director of Education in the central administration office of an urban charter school.
Eva received her undergraduate degree from Baylor University, and received a master's in teaching with an emphasis on reading education from Texas Woman's University. Eva also earned her law degree from Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth. She is currently finishing her doctorate from Southern Methodist University.Full Bio
Bush Institute's Eva Myrick Chiang Participates in the SCORE Institute on School Leadership
Last week, Bush Institute's Director of Research and Evaluation Eva Myrick Chiang participated in a panel discussion on school leadership hosted by State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) in Nashville, TN. “Even when you give a talented principal the most effective training, we still need school districts to improve the way they recruit, selection, and support those principals so that we can retain them in their schools for as long as possible,” said Chiang during the discussion. Based on the conversation, a few important themes emerged: Researchers have found that effective principal preparation programs have some common characteristics including rigorous admission requirements, partnerships with districts, and meaningful residency experiences. High-quality programs also collect and use data constantly to find opportunities to improve. Principals are not always placed in schools where they will have the greatest impact. Districts can use data about s
If You Want Great Teachers, Hire Great Principals
Bush Institute's Education Reform Director Anne Wicks reflects on her own teaching experience on National Teacher Day.
Principal Talent Management as an Equity Tool
We believe that the use of data is important to ensuring that all students, no matter their background, ethnicity, or zip code, deserve the opportunity to learn at their highest levels