Efrain Mercado

Transform Principals into Instructional Leaders

Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core State Standards - ASCD

ASCD has released a new report titled Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core State Standards: Moving from Adoption to Implementation to Sustainability that illuminates activities educators and policymakers at all levels can undertake to successfully implement the Common Core State Standards across the United States, including "transform principals into instructional leaders."

Until now, principals have been the overlooked constituency as states have sought to gain acceptance of the standards from rank-and-file classroom teachers while simultaneously working with district-level leaders to create systemic supports and reforms aligned to the standards.

However, principals and related administrators hold the power to leverage the Common Core State Standards in schools: they are the linchpins in either delivering or facilitating the delivery of resources and supports to classroom teachers. One of the most pressing needs is to provide powerful resources and professional development to school building leaders.

The stakes have never been higher for principals as they deal with the transition to the Common Core State Standards and the push in many states for principal evaluation. A recent research report published by the Wallace Foundation (PDF) identified five main functions that effective principals perform well:

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students.
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education.
  • Cultivating leadership in others.
  • Improving instruction.
  • Managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement. (p. 2)

The Common Core State Standards will be integrated in the classroom more quickly and with greater efficacy if principals truly embrace their role as instructional leaders. As instructional leaders, principals must

  • Know and understand the shifts associated with the Common Core State Standards.
  • Be fully versed in how to support their teachers as they enact those changes.
  • Better align initiatives such as teacher evaluation and Common Core implementation seamlessly for their staffs.

Principals need to ensure that a culture of learning is in place so that classroom teachers can effectively collaborate with their colleagues to learn and adjust their instruction to these higher standards. To prioritize these efforts, principals should reserve time during faculty meetings to address updates on Common Core implementation from the district and state and to provide a forum for teachers to highlight best practices and lessons learned. They will also need to advocate for common planning time and make sure that teachers use the time effectively.

Principals also need to share and collaborate with their peers at other sites to make certain that the district's efforts are guided by what is happening in the classroom.

Another new responsibility for principals is serving as an information clearinghouse, scrutinizing information for its applicability to implementing the standards and ensuring that it is communicated to staff. To staff, parents, and students too, school leaders have essential obligations to communicate the coming changes to state assessments—for example, the computer-based administration and performance component.

Enacting these recommendations will provide classroom teachers on their campuses with the support necessary to accomplish the school's goals of ensuring that each child leaves college- and career-ready.

An ASCD webinar, "The Principal's Role in Bringing the CCSS to Routine Use: Essential Levers for Change," speaks to the transformation of the principal's role with the move to the Common Core standards. You can watch the webinar at www.ascd.org/ccss-principal-webinar.

Download Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core State Standards: Moving from Adoption to Implementation to Sustainability to learn more about the recommendations to move implementation forward, including

  • Listen to educators about their professional learning needs;
  • Adopt technology for teaching and learning;
  • Align initiatives into comprehensive reforms;
  • Make sure educators deeply understand the standards and the key instructional shifts they require; and
  • Vet instructional resources for quality and alignment with the standards.


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