How to prepare leaders for a crisis

By Andrea Hyatt Cutt, Dave Miller, Raffaella Borasi and Zenon Borys
October 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic found many K-12 school leaders unprepared to deal with the magnitude and duration of this emergency. Dealing with sustained crises is not sufficiently addressed in most K-12 leadership programs, nor in the National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) standards (NPBEA, 2018). What can we do to better prepare leaders for similar situations in the future? We interviewed over 50 school leaders in the 2020-21 school year to better understand their experiences during the pandemic. Their stories enabled us to identify distinct challenges they experienced — and felt ill-equipped to address — at three different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic: The immediate emergency as schools closed in spring 2020, which necessitated quick decision-making; The continuing crisis of the 2020-21 school year, which called for

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NPBEA. (2018). National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) Program Standards. Author.

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Andrea Hyatt Cutt (acutt@ is assistant professor and director of the K-12 School Leadership Preparation Program.

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Dave Miller (dmiller@ is associate professor and associate director of the Center for Learning in the Digital Age.

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Raffaella Borasi (rborasi@ is Frederica Warner Professor of Education and director of the Center for Learning in the Digital Age. 

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Zenon Borys ( is assistant director of the Center for Learning in the Digital Age at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. 

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