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Once Focused on System Problems, Principal Supervisors Now Drive Support22986GP0|#330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708;L0|#0330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708|School Leadership;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>In 2014, Des Moines Public Schools was one of six urban school districts selected to participate in Wallace’s Principal Supervisor Initiative, a four-year effort to overhaul a central-office position from its traditional focus on administration to a focus on developing principals’ skills at supporting effective teaching. Des Moines, which serves 33,000 children across more than 60 schools, was eager to get to work. </p><p>A year earlier, newly appointed superintendent Thomas Ahart had increased his staff of supervisors, known in the district as directors, to five from three, thereby reducing the number of schools each supervisor oversaw. At the time, a single director managed all of the district’s 39 elementary schools. Over the course of the effort, Des Moines made substantial changes that allowed principal supervisors to spend more time working alongside principals to strengthen their instructional leadership practices. A new report, <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/changing-the-principal-supervisor-role-to-better-support-principals.aspx"> <em>Changing the Principal Supervisor Role to Better Support Principals&#58; Evidence from the Principal Supervisor Initiative</em></a>, describes the experiences of Des Moines and the other districts, as well as the impact of the work. In early March, Ahart sat down with us to discuss how the supervisor effort had unfolded in Des Moines and his plans to keep the momentum going. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.&#160;</p><p> <strong>One of the key components of the Principal Supervisor Initiative (PSI) was to strengthen central office structures to support and sustain changes in the principal supervisor’s role. How did you accomplish this in Des Moines? </strong></p><p>Prior to the PSI grant, we had a central-office structure that supervised schools, not principals. In theory, our principal supervisors evaluated principals, but what they really did was help principals solve problems with the system, whether it involved facilities, business and finance, human resources. Then at the end of the year, they did an evaluation that, from my own experience as a principal, was of very little value.</p><p>Frankly, it just checked a box. </p><p>When we started to break down how to better support our schools, the big challenge was&#58; How do we take care of the things currently on the principal supervisor’s plate that detract from coaching around student growth? That was the driver in shifts made holistically at central office. Rather than principal supervisors brokering resources from the district for their principals, we needed a system that allowed that to happen organically. </p><p> <strong>So what changes did you make? </strong></p><p>We created a cadre of five principal supervisors called directors and put each in charge of a network of schools. They [originally] reported to two executive directors who served as a go-between between the rest of the central administration and the schools. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t figure this out earlier, but we soon recognized a problem with this solution. Why were we relegating executive directors, bright people with years of experience in the district, to this type of work? It was true that they knew the system inside and out, and had relationships to navigate it, but their work wasn’t contributing to a more powerful system. </p><p>That’s when we created a structure in which each principal supervisor has a district support team for their school network. Each of them has one point of contact in human resources, business and finance, operations and other central-office departments. These [central-office] individuals now hear the whole range of questions, frustrations and wants from principals relative to their department, and they’re going back to their [department heads] with really good thinking about how to make their department work better. This is a paradigm shift in how the central office functioned. In the past, departments like business and finance never felt connected to what was happening in schools. The new structure makes them feel like, hey, I’m not just pushing numbers. I’m a critical piece of making this work at the classroom level. They’re motivated and highly engaged. Interestingly, we now have principals inquiring about openings in human resources. We’ve never had that before, so I think that’s a positive development. </p><p> <strong>The job description of a principal supervisor has been completely rewritten in Des Moines. How did you manage the change in expectations for the role? </strong></p><p>I became associate superintendent for teaching and learning in 2011, and 10 months into it, I was named interim superintendent. By the time I was appointed superintendent in 2013, I already had been working on a different organizational strategy. I drafted a new org chart and showed it to the three directors who were supervising schools at the time. Their eyes got really big and they said, what about us? I said, great question, tell me what you do right now. They said they supported schools and described the brokering role I mentioned earlier. Then I showed them the monitoring reports I submit to the board of education every year and asked them to which ones they contributed. They looked at each other and said none. That’s the problem, I told them. These guys were working really hard, feeling like they were doing everything for our schools and principals, but it didn’t show up anywhere on paper. They didn’t own anything, and that actually did them a great disservice in terms of how the position was viewed by the rest of the organization.</p><p>After I became superintendent, I hired two more directors and gave them each smaller networks of schools. Both had been sitting principals, both were dedicated to students, but they had no idea what they were doing as supervisors. In terms of coaching, they had a lot of work to do. Shortly after, the grant application for the PSI came about. It was perfect timing. The PSI provided us the resources to put in place a leadership framework and an instructional framework, and to develop shared language and shared expectations. It allowed us to support our principal supervisors so they can coach effectively and take a different coaching disposition based on the problem of practice they’re trying to solve. </p><p> <strong>According to the </strong> <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/changing-the-principal-supervisor-role-to-better-support-principals.aspx"> <strong>report</strong></a><strong>, over the course of the PSI initiative principals reported that the quality of the evaluation feedback they received from their supervisors improved. How has the culture around evaluations changed in Des Moines? </strong></p><p>A number of big changes have happened. First, our principals now receive a meaningful evaluation, whether they like it or not. It’s much more integral to their work with their supervisors. They also have much more clarity about their job and the system’s expectations for them. They’re not flying blind and then worrying at the end of the school year when someone goes through an exhaustive checklist to determine if they’re doing an okay job. Our principals see their supervisor at least once a week all year. In most cases, they’re spending several hours together each week. So even if they don’t like something in their evaluation, they can’t say it’s not an informed assessment of their practice. </p><p> <strong>Do you think a principal supervisor can be both coach and evaluator? </strong></p><p>We’re still wrestling with that question. I do think an evaluator should have coaching skills. We want the evaluation process to be one of growth and improvement, not punitive. But if my only coach is my evaluator, while he may do a wonderful job in supporting me, I think there are some inherent limits to that when ultimately he has to judge my performance. Right now, we’re working to build coaching capacity in the folks who serve on our network support teams.&#160;&#160; </p><p> <strong>The PSI researchers recommend that districts embed the principal supervisor role within the broader work of the central office to sustain the changes they’ve implemented. What’s your plan in Des Moines?</strong></p><p>Currently, our principal supervisors report to the associate superintendent, but we may have them report up through our executive director of teaching and learning instead. Her department is responsible for curriculum and works closely with principals to implement it. We’re at a place now where we’re asking, how many voices do we want in our principal’s ear? By better integrating our work at central office, we can eliminate the number of at least perceived demands on our principals. It would also be further doubling down on the principal supervisor’s ownership of executing district-wide priorities. </p><p> <em>A number of other reports about the principal supervisor job, including </em> <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/leading-the-change-a-comparison-of-the-principal-supervisor-role.aspx">Leading the Change</a><em>, a look at the role in larger districts nationally, can be found </em> <a href="/knowledge-center/school-leadership/pages/principal-supervisors.aspx"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>Jennifer Gill832020-07-28T04:00:00ZDes Moines schools chief Thomas Ahart discusses how his district re-made the principal supervisor job7/27/2020 8:50:10 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Once Focused on System Problems, Principal Supervisors Now Drive Support Des Moines schools chief Thomas Ahart discusses 290https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Keeping Current on the State of Knowledge About Principals and APs4600GP0|#330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708;L0|#0330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708|School Leadership;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​​​The amount of research on education leadership is staggering. Plug “school leadership” into Google Scholar, a search engine that indexes scholarly literature, for example, and you’ll find more than 90,000 books, studies and reports published on the topic since 2000. Fortunately, a group of prominent education researchers is sifting through the mountain of literature for the benefit of the rest of us.&#160;</p><p>This summer, we announced the commissioning of reports from three research teams that will examine the state of knowledge in critical areas of education leadership. Two of these research syntheses will offer a fresh analysis of topics explored in previous Wallace reports. The first will focus on the impact of leadership on student achievement, providing an update to the landmark <em> <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/how-leadership-influences-student-learning.aspx">How Leadership Influences Student Learning</a></em>, published in 2004 and still one of our most popular publications. The second will examine the characteristics of effective principal preparation programs, revisiting a topic that was first covered in <em> <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/preparing-school-leaders.aspx">Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World&#58; Lessons from Exemplary Leadership Development Programs</a></em>, published in 2007. The third report will explore the role of the assistant principal, a new area of inquiry that has emerged from our school leadership work over the past 15 years.</p><p>“Having reliable, high-quality reports that identify and analyze key findings across different research sources in a systematic way is very useful both for the field and for us at the foundation,” says Elizabeth Ty Wilde, senior research officer at Wallace. As important, she adds, the teams will also pinpoint areas where research is lacking and that could benefit from future study. </p><p>A number of developments justify taking a fresh look at how school leaders influence student learning, notes Jason Grissom, associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University and leader of the team investigating the topic. For one, the research base has exploded since our 2004 report by Kenneth Leithwood, Karen Seashore Louis and other scholars, who reviewed the research literature of the time and found that leadership is second only to instruction among school-related factors contributing to student achievement. The rigor of the research has improved as well. Thanks to the advent of state-level longitudinal data systems, scholars can now track the impact of school leadership on student outcomes over time, an analysis that wasn’t as feasible back in 2000. The job of a school principal has changed too, with a greater focus on instructional improvement, which has opened new avenues of research in recent years.&#160;</p><p>“This project is an opportunity to take stock and look across all the studies to determine the consistent findings regarding the connection between school leadership and student outcomes, and which attributes of leaders are most important to that connection,” says Grissom, who is collaborating with Constance Lindsay of the University of North Carolina and Anna Egalite of North Carolina State University on the synthesis.</p><p>The team examining principal preparation programs is taking a multi-faceted approach to its work. In addition to reviewing the research on pre-service training, the team will study the evolution of state policies on principal preparation and survey principals nationwide about how well their training prepared them for the job. The analysis “will give us a sense of how big of a mountain we have yet to climb” to prepare effective school leaders, says Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and co-principal investigator of research team. Darling-Hammond, who co-authored the 2007 report on principal training, is joined by Tina Trujillo of the University of California, Berkeley, and two colleagues at the Learning Policy Institute, an independent research organization dedicated to improving education policy and practice, co-PI (principal investigator) Marjorie Wechsler and Stephanie Levin.&#160;&#160;</p><p>Spending time as an assistant principal is a common route to the principalship, but how can the experience best prepare aspiring leaders? That’s one of the central questions guiding the analysis by Vanderbilt education professors Ellen Goldring and Mollie Rubin, along with Mariesa Herrmann of Mathematica Policy Research. The team will analyze state and national data as well as existing research to explore the characteristics of assistant principals, their preparation and the support they get on the job, among other topics. They’ll also investigate issues of equity, such as whether assistant principals have equal opportunities to become principals. The team doesn’t expect to find all the answers. “Because the literature on assistant principals is less robust, in terms of rigor and replication, this particular synthesis will help the field begin to think about future areas of research,” says Goldring.</p><p>While each team is working independently, all of the researchers are sharing ideas and advice as they dive deeper into the project. Darling-Hammond and her team, for example, called Grissom to pick his brain about his research on principal preparation programs. Grissom for his part has wandered down the hall to talk with his Vanderbilt colleague Rubin about ways to extract data from qualitative research. “So often, researchers operate in a vacuum,” says Rubin. “It’s been very helpful to talk out loud about the decisions we’re making.” </p><p> Wilde hopes the collaboration continues after the three reports come out next summer. “I jokingly told everyone at our first meeting, ‘At the end of this project, I hope that you can email anyone in this room and they’ll email you back—soon.’”<br></p> <br>Jennifer Gill832019-10-22T04:00:00ZScholars Dig Into Latest Research on Three Crucial Topics in School Leadership10/22/2019 1:59:13 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Keeping Current on the State of Knowledge About Principals and APs Scholars Dig Into Latest Research on Three Crucial 1343https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Insights on How Principals Can Affect Teachers, Students and Schools24093GP0|#330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708;L0|#0330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708|School Leadership;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61 <p>​There’s no doubt that principals are important, but it can be difficult to measure just how their actions affect schools, teachers and students. A new report seeks to&#160;shed&#160;light on that. <br></p><p>The <a href="https&#58;//journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0034654319866133">report</a> synthesizes 51 studies and suggests&#160;evidence of the relationship between principals’ behavior and student achievement, teacher well-being, teacher instructional practices and school organizational health. </p><p>“We argue that our findings highlight the critical importance of expanding the knowledge base about strategies principals can take to improve learning in schools, and the value of investing in school leadership capacity,” write the study’s authors, the University of Oregon’s David D. Liebowitz and Lorna Porter.</p><p>Liebowitz and Porter conducted the meta-analysis by examining the empirical literature on five aspects of principals’ jobs—instructional management, internal relations, organizational management, administration and external relations—and the potential effects&#160;on student outcomes, (such as grades and behavior), teacher outcomes (well-being, retention rates and instructional practices) and school outcomes (school organizational health and principal retention). </p><p>While the field has emphasized principals’ roles as instructional leaders, Liebowitz and Porter write that they “find evidence that principal behaviors other than instructional management may be equally important mechanisms to improve student outcomes.”</p><p>The findings suggest that investing in principals may improve learning. A recent study from the RAND Corporation found that in districts with a <a href="/knowledge-center/school-leadership/pages/principal-pipeline-implementation.aspx">principal pipeline</a>—a districtwide effort to better prepare, support and evaluate school leaders—schools with new “pipeline” principals outperformed comparison schools in reading and in math.<br></p><p>Wallace continues to work to expand the evidence base on school leadership and recently <a href="/news-and-media/press-releases/pages/wallace-foundation-commissions-reports-to-synthesize-state-of-knowledge-key-aspects-school-leadership-.aspx">commissioned a research synthesis</a> on how leadership affects student learning. The report will build on a 2004 <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/how-leadership-influences-student-learning.aspx">landmark study</a> finding that school leadership is second only to teaching among school-related influences on student success.</p><p>Learn more about school leadership in Wallace’s <a href="/knowledge-center/school-leadership/pages/default.aspx">Knowledge Center</a>.<br></p>Wallace editorial team792019-10-16T04:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.1/3/2020 5:05:26 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Insights on How Principals Can Affect Teachers, Students and Schools New report seeks to clarify role of school leaders and 1618https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx

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