The Effective Principal
The topic of principal effectiveness and its role in comprehensive, sustainable school improvement has been on our minds as we bring our ASCD Forum discussion to a close. We asked readers of ASCD SmartBrief, a free daily e-mail news service that provides summaries and links to major education stories and issues, what best defines effective principals. More than a third (34 percent) of readers agree that the most important standard is for principals to have a clear vision and inspire and engage others in developing and realizing it. At a secondary level, about one in six educators felt that one of the following four standards were equally important and most descriptive of an effective principal:
- They model professional, ethical behavior and expect others to do the same.
- They are committed to student and adult learners and their development.
- They foster a cohesive culture of learning.
- They drive, facilitate, and monitor the teaching and learning process.
We look to principals and heads of schools for leadership and support as we are asked to do more with less for our students. As leaders, learners, advocates, communicators, and developers, principals face complex challenges. Today's challenges include the development of the whole child, the changing global economy and society, the importance of school and community partnership, and using data to inform practice.
Whole child partner organization National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) shares standards for what principals should know and be able to do in its second edition of Leading Learning Communities. In the Executive Summary (PDF), NAESP identifies indicators for what "it looks like" when each standard is implemented effectively. For example,
- "Effective principals lead schools in a way that places student and adult learning at the center. ... We see principals who ... align operations to support student, adult, and school learning needs." (p. 5)
- "Effective principals set high expectations and standards for the academic, social, emotional, and physical development of all students. ... We see principals who ... broaden the framework for child development beyond academics." (p. 6)
- "Effective principals actively engage the community to create shared responsibility for student performance and development. ... We see principals who ... engage parents, families, and the community to build relationships that support improved performance." (p.10)
What we see through our research, reading, and conversations with principals and school staff is that to see what an effective principal is, don't look at the person; look at the effects of her leadership on student achievement, school culture and climate, teacher effectiveness and satisfaction, and community relationships. As the wearers of many hats, principals are crucial to implementing meaningful and lasting school change.
In April, we looked at what qualities principals in today's (and tomorrow's) schools need to fulfill their roles as visionary, instructional, influential, and learning leaders. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Donna Snyder, manager of Whole Child Programs at ASCD; Kevin Enerson, principal of Le Sueur-Henderson High School in Minnesota (an ASCD Whole Child Network school); and Jessica Bohn, an ASCD Emerging Leader and principal of Gibsonville Elementary School in North Carolina. Read this blog to hear guest bloggers and experts share their thoughts on principal leadership.
Also this month on the Whole Child Podcast, we talked with educators from Oregon's Milwaukie High School (winner of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award) about how they meet student and staff needs, taking challenges and turning them into opportunities for all. Guests include principal Mark Pinder, assistant principal for curriculum Michael Ralls, assistant principal for student management Tim Taylor, dean of students Donnie Siel, and teacher leader David Adams.
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