The role of a school leader, whether a principal, an assistant principal, an instructional coach, or another administrator, is an inherently demanding position. School leaders are ultimately responsible for the academic success of their students, the cultural climate of their schools, the professional development and retention of their teachers, and the innumerable operational decisions that must be made daily. As more schools shift to a student-centered model, school leaders must clearly define their roles and responsibilities, create and implement a vision and strategic plan that ensures progress towards student-facing goals, and engage the entire school community (students, faculty, staff, families, and the communities) as a partner to enhance student achievement and success.
As school leaders are increasingly being held accountable for a diverse set of school-wide results, the impact of their leadership on student learning has become even more important: in fact, research shows that "leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school" (Leithwood 2004). In order to achieve ambitious student-centered goals, school leaders must be well-prepared to lead cultural change and improve instruction, not just manage buildings and budgets.
A skilled student-centered leader can ensure that all elements of the school--the content taught, the approach to assessment, the professional development provided to teachers, collaboration with families and the community, the resource allocation, and much more--are designed cohesively to support students in achieving their goals.
Why it's important
As research continues to show the impact of a strong school leader on student achievement, school climate, and teacher retention, the need for principals to have access to ongoing, high-quality professional development becomes more urgent. Historically, however, professional development for school leaders has been limited to workshops and trainings focused on administrative, operational, and compliance issues. School leaders rarely receive the type of personalized, ongoing, job-embedded leadership coaching that is most effective. Leaders working to dramatically improve their schools need expert guidance and encouragement to successfully navigate the on-the-ground challenges of change management. Leadership coaching can provide that guidance by providing leaders with personalized support to improve the teaching, learning, and overall climate in their school. Whether leading a full-school turnaround, implementing a new initiative such as a transition to blended or personalized learning, or simply striving to improve an element of student learning or school culture, personalized coaching ensures that school leaders striving to improve their school actually get the results they desire.
What success looks like
Student-centered leaders are able to articulate a student learning-focused instructional vision, develop a vision-aligned strategic plan for change management, analyze school-wide data to monitor progress towards school goals, and engage all stakeholders--including students, faculty, staff, families, and the community--as partners working to enhance student achievement.
BetterLesson Blog Posts:
Rensch, Teresa. Strategies to Create a Profound Ripple Effect in Our Classrooms and School Culture. October 2, 2018.
Culbertson, J. 7 reasons why districts need to invest in principal coaching. Insight Education Group. September 6, 2017.
Allensworth, E.M., & Hart, H. How do principals influence student achievement? Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. 2018.