There is a “leadership crisis” in schools today. And while there are many people who think there is one, it is not a crisis at all. In fact, it is one of the most important things happening in our schools today.
A school leader is a person who influences student learning and school improvement through the development of supportive school communities, the establishment of effective school climate and culture, and the use of effective instructional practices. The job of a school leader is to attend to and care for the school community through the use of support services that contribute to the achievement of quality education.
As a registered school leader, I am constantly asked what I do. When my students ask, I explain it in a way that they understand. I tell them about the many roles school leaders play—teacher, coach, mentor, and more. I emphasize the importance of each of these roles and what they contribute to our educational outcomes.
If our goal is to expedite education for those most affected by the pandemic, we must make the best use of the time we have. Since TNTP’s Myth of Opportunity study, we know that all too often only a quarter of the time students spend in the classroom is spent on activities that sufficiently contribute to their college and career readiness. Simply repeating what we did before the pandemic will not get us where we need to be as we try to recover. In fact, we know a lot about how to make the most of study time:
- Create an atmosphere where students feel safe to take risks and develop ideas.
- Keep lessons meaningful, culturally relevant and varied to maintain student interest.
- Anticipate participants’ confusion and prepare them for the beginning of the training.
- Give students the opportunity to practice independently and with guidance.
- Provide quick and accurate feedback on participants’ work.
- If students are struggling, review specific skills as soon as possible and use this data to inform future lessons.
- Make sure students complete their work at the appropriate level each day.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of school and district officials to make the best use of students’ time. From their position they can set expectations, set up systems, provide resources and encourage teachers to do their best. An important recent study commissioned by the Wallace Foundation confirms this: What school leaders do has a significant impact on learning outcomes.
We know what that leadership looks like because we have seen leaders who, despite the challenges of the past year, have put systems in place and dedicated their staff and resources to ensure that all students can learn meaningfully every day. Some of these leaders, such as Kimberly Grayson, principal of Dr. MLK Junior Early College in Colorado, and Ashley Johnson, principal of Henderson Collegiate in North Carolina, are featured in our Follow the Leaders project, launched by the Relay Graduate School of Education to show how leaders who have already succeeded in improving student learning are paving the way for greater equity during a pandemic.
We will continue to do so while the leadership works on rebuilding next year. These individuals – including school leaders and district and charter school networks – each approached the challenge in a slightly different way, based on their own context. But they all committed to the following practical strategies to make the most of people’s time in this very difficult year:
- Commitment to providing challenging learning for every student. The year 2020-21 was a year of compromise. But one thing these leaders have not compromised on is austerity. For Jeanine Zitta, a network principal in St. Louis Public Schools, this has led her to focus like a laser on strengthening teacher planning. They may have covered fewer subjects, but they made sure that the skills they developed were the most important in preparing them for college and the job market, and they didn’t want to sacrifice depth for that.
- Develop a clear vision of what excellent teaching and leadership looks like. Exceptional leaders understand that the most useful thing they can do for their teachers is to shape a shared vision of excellence in education. For Ashley Johnson, this involved developing powerful tools to define educational quality and teaching her leadership team to develop a shared vision.
- Keeping track of classes and student work. Unlike many other sites, the supervisors we observed doubled the number of lesson observations when all instruction was posted online. Only by analyzing what was happening between teachers and students was the entire management team able to identify and address key gaps. And only by looking at the students’ work could they know if the lessons were effective. Heather Haynes, regional superintendent of Denver Public Schools, is an example of this practice: She and her team set tight priorities, benchmarks and practices.
- Streamline formative, evaluation and response assessment cycles. Leaders were clear that there is an increased risk in distance education that gaps in teaching and learning are not discovered quickly enough to close them before students fall further behind. As a result, they have increased the amount of data they keep and the frequency with which they do so. They monitored students’ engagement and performance, as well as their mastery of the material. And they responded to the alarms as often as if it were a daily occurrence.
- Do all this while taking care of your employees. The social-emotional needs of students and adults were huge last year, and will be next year. Despite their physical isolation, these leaders were concerned with the common good of the people. They observed students’ emotional states and created structures to build meaningful relationships. They were constantly encouraging and attentive to the fact that people can endure so much. We see examples of this caring when Laura Garza and Aaron Aguirre-Castillo of the Dallas Independent School District share their approach to reaching a common vision of racial justice.
Principal Brandi Chin, who directs Noel Campus, the science and technology school in Denver, recently told us that she sees planning for the upcoming school year as planning for the opening of a brand new school. That’s what all school, district and network leaders should be thinking right now. In rethinking what we need to do to give all pupils the learning experience they deserve, the first thing we need to think about is how to make the best use of their time.
This article was originally published on eSchool News. Photo astrakanimages, Envato Elements-licensed.In two decades of education leadership, I have seen the power of collaboration when it comes to improving student achievement. We must work together to create a shared vision and then be willing to share credit so that all stakeholders can benefit from the results.. Read more about influence of school leadership on student learning and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does leadership influence student learning?
How does student learning of course change when a school leader engages students through a variety of strategies that include the following: – Distinguishing between classroom learning and life or family learning – Providing opportunities for students to take leadership roles – Dealing with failure – Providing opportunities for students to be reflective – Creating a culture of accountability Leadership is an important factor in student learning.
It is said that teachers influence student learning by 29 % while leadership influences learning by 65 %. The complexity of interactions between teacher and student and the leadership role is very challenging in the school system. In this blog, I will introduce the research related to the role of leadership in student learning.
Does school leadership affect student academic achievement?
For over two decades, researchers have been saying that student achievement is the most important measure of school success. And yet, research has been slow to measure what school leaders do that relates to student achievement. In this post, I will present evidence that demonstrates that school leaders have a major impact on student achievement.
A new study found that school leader effectiveness is a strong indicator of whether or not students will be proficient on state exams. The research found that student achievement was linked to school leaders’ effectiveness outside of the classroom, such as their ability to communicate with the parents of their students.
How school leaders contribute to student success?
The goal of this blog is to provide a space for educational leaders to share information, provide tips, and discuss issues related to education. This includes (but is not limited to), administrative, instructional, and professional issues and, of course, the unique experiences of being an administrator. The key to improving student success is to focus on the student, not on the teacher.
This may seem obvious, but the majority of schools have found that they tend to lose focus on students as they focus on their managers and administrators. This has led to a lack of policies, procedures and accountability for the educators who are tasked with helping students achieve their goals.