Professional learning for principals

April 2008

Professional Learning for Principals.


The Learning Professional

Published Date

In This Issue


NSDC's standards provide building blocks to support principals throughout the year

As a new principal, Ann is overwhelmed with her responsibilities. Before accepting the appointment to become the principal of a large, urban elemen- tary school, Ann had served as an assistant principal for just two years. Like many other new principals in her fast- growing district, she finds herself in this leadership posi- tion a […]

4-stage process changes individuals and entire schools 

In this time of changing school demographics and widening achievement gaps, developing cultural proficiency is an essential step for teachers. But what is the process for leading teachers through this transformative journey?

Raise the level of conversation by using paraphrasing as a listening skill 

I’ve just left Rome, and though I spoke through a translator, I am very clear that emotion was being expressed in the room. Just as E.E. Cummings knew that feeling is integral to relationships, we know that the expression and recognition of feelings is a major factor in conversational competence. This column explores the importance of expressing feeling and thinking.

Examine your practice

Principals are required to lead in a variety of domains. Fortunately, several tools are available to use as self-assessments or in group learning situations. Innovation configuration maps (ICs) are tools that describe specific behaviors clustered around desired outcomes. NSDC offers ICs for each of its 12 standards for staff development for principals and 10 other […]

The learning school: A clear vision leads to results

Ensuring high-quality learning results for students begins with providing high-quality learning for the adults who work with those students. This has been NSDC’s message for many years. The NSDC Board of Trustees put an exclamation point on that message when it endorsed a new purpose last summer.

System change can take education goals from fantasy to reality 

As Congress considers reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools again stand at the center of the accountability movement. Most states have spent significant time, energy, and resources to develop accountability systems that explicitly define what students are expected to learn at each grade level and how this learning will be measured. Educators are working hard on the challenge of helping all kids learn, but a recent study comparing test results from 12 states with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results calls into question not only the rate of progress in closing the achievement gap, but whether states are lowering the bar for passing state tests. In some states, the disparity between state and NAEP results actually widened from 2002 to 2006 (Olson, 2007).

A personal moment leads to professional awakening 

This morning, Harry wept as I dropped him off at kindergarten. These were not just garden variety, “Mommy, I want to stay with you, but I’ll try to be brave” tears, but “Mommy, how can you abandon me here?” wails. Normally he loves school — maybe he’s coming down with a cold. Then his little […]

Practicing professionals

Richard F. Elmore: “We’ve paid a fairly high price for being casual about how to organize for high-quality instruction.”

10 rungs to proficiency 

In the Washoe County School District (WCSD), in Reno, Nev., school leaders climb a steep ladder from the moment they contemplate a career in administration. Fortunately, they are supported at each step in the process, thanks to the Principals’ Academy. This approach helps principals fulfill their critical mission of providing a link between policy and […]


Two key insights guide Rhode Island’s work to support principals. First, leaders at all experience levels need support from a network of colleagues. Second, leaders grow when they work with colleagues of diverse experience levels. That led Rhode Island to create a continuum of support that enables principals to address their learning needs through networks that are immersed in authentic experiences and framed by standards, protocols, and structures that allow leaders to learn from each other’s expertise. education advocacy organization, created the Principal Residency Network (PRN), an alternative preparation program in Rhode Island to respond to the need for a new breed of school leaders. PRN’s mission is to develop a cadre of principals who champion educational reform through leadership of innovative schools focused on student achievement and personal growth. Aspiring principals, selected

Guiding hand 

Whether by design or by chance, superintendents communicate their beliefs about what is important educationally and the roles they expect their principals to fulfill. Superintendents who champion the development of their principals as instructional leaders begin by establishing common understandings with them about why principals’ instructional leadership is necessary for school success. They reinforce this by actively providing support for their principals to develop and refine their effectiveness as instructional leaders.

Boston structures supports school leaders 

Bettie Nolan began her career in public health administration as a high school nurse in Boston Public Schools. After witnessing the challenging experiences of many adolescents, particularly pregnant teens, she concluded that access to better educational opportunities could support better life choices. As a result, she decided to become a school administrator in the hope […]

A winding path

Is this a familiar image from not so long ago? Principals manage schools, ensuring that nothing interrupts business as usual. They spend little time on instruction. A good principal is the one who works in a high-achieving school that has no significant management problems. Districts celebrate improved student results by recognizing an outstanding crop of students, rarely pointing to the quality of teaching in a school. Before accountability reached Tucson (Ariz.) Unified School District in 2003, we embodied this image.

When hearts meet minds 

Ask almost any principal why he or she feels called to this vocation. Why select a leadership role with endless demands and a relentless pace? The principal will tell you that he or she took on this daunting task to make a positive impact on the lives and education of children, to be an instructional leader. This is a noble goal that is all too soon mired in the realities of school management. The job becomes one that may only be focused erratically on leading instruction.

On the edge 

Here is my challenge to school leaders, staff developers, and all who care about public education and the students it is meant to serve: We must go beyond helping educators become better at doing their jobs — as important as that is — and support them in becoming agents of institutional change. It is no longer enough for professionals to do their work well.

Leading with passion and principles

Stephanie Hirsh and Joellen Killion open their book The Learning Educator: A New Era For Professional Learning (NSDC, 2007, p.11) with these words as they outline a set of eight principles to guide professional learning in the coming years. After reading about effective professional learning for principals, the connection between the words “principle” and “principal” […]

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