School principals should be fluent in data analysis, understand the challenges facing their students, be aware of potential health concerns and be prepared to lead change on their first day in the job.
That’s the thrust of an effort by the Board of Regents to update school principal leadership standards and review and update what goes into to training and certifying school building leaders.
“We really want to staff our schools with leaders that can mobilize communities and buildings,” Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said during a presentation to the Board of Regents on Monday. “By strengthening the preparation of aspiring principals, we believe we can enhance school leadership and improve prospects for children.”
State education officials are using a Wallace Foundation grant for an 18-month review of the existing training of future principals and to engage stakeholders to develop recommendations for changes, focusing on the preparation programs and colleges and universities across the state. An advisory committee starts to meet next month and is expected to deliver recommendations to the Regents next spring.
Some board members Monday offered up areas they think should be emphasized as new standards and expectations for school principals are developed, including a deep understanding of how to use data to drive decisions and familiarity with possible health concerns for student populations.
As with many discussions at the Board of Regents level, members honed in on what changes would mean for the state’s highest-need districts, where poverty and social and emotional trauma amplify the usual challenges facing any school. And standards only go so far, Regent Lester Young said; what’s more important is making change real inside of a school.
“The idea that the skills needed to turn around an organization with a history of a culture of failure are the same as any other school is absolutely ridiculous,” Young said. “What happens is if you focus only on standards, you get away from reality.”
The Regents agreed that it is not just important to improve training for principals, but it’s also important to find ways to retain high-quality school leaders and not promote them to district administration.
“The issue of preparation is just one factor of school building leadership,” Regent Wade Norwood said. “How do we create an ennobling career path so this effective building leader can stay in the building for decade instead of being promoted into administration?”
But the presentation also opened the door to criticisms from some regents over how the Education Department staff established the advisory group of around 50 stakeholders – teachers, principals, administrators, parents and more.
Regent Catherine Collins, of Buffalo, said she wasn’t asked to recommend participants in the group from her region or kept in the loop as the group was put together.
“I just want people to know that some of us have been left out of the conversation,” Collins said.
Regent Louis Reyes said he would like to see representatives from education advocacy groups included more in advisory committees, arguing that just because they can be critical of education policy, their voices shouldn’t be left out of the discussion.
The review of school leadership is also intended to move New York toward a set of national school leader standards that were published by the National Policy Board for Education Administration last year, Elia said. New York last adopted new school principal standards in 2008.
Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.
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