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Leadership Standards Target Teaching, Learning

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To be effective, school leaders should have a deep knowledge of teaching and learning, according to new draft standards drawn up by a consortium of states and education groups.

Of the six standards drafted by the group, only one focuses primarily on such management issues as how to write a budget, negotiate a union contract, or oversee school facilities.

Several of the standards hone in on teaching and learning, which the consortium describes as the "heart and soul" of effective school leadership. (See our excerpts from the draft standards

"We did that by design," said Neil J. Shipman, the standards-project director. "For years, principals and other school leaders were encouraged to be managers. And as a consequence, sometimes, we lost sight of our main reason for being, and that was to guide and improve instructional programs in the schools.

"Through the use of these standards," he said, "we want to refocus school leadership in that direction."

On Track With Research

The Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers organized the consortium of 24 states to draft the standards which were released last month. Eleven professional education groups served in an advisory capacity

The National Policy Board for Educational Administration, an organization formed in 1988 to focus on standards for administrators, also worked with the consortium.

The standards group, known as the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium, began meeting in August 1994 to devise model standards, assessments, and licensing procedures for use by states.

The standards could apply to all administrative leadership positions in education, from principal to superintendent.

The standards are in line with research on effective schools, which stresses the need for strong instructional leaders, but they run counter to efforts to recruit business executives, retired military officers, and other noneducators to run schools.

"There's just overwhelming evidence that the places where things work, the school leaders have a deep understanding of children and learning and achievement," said Joseph Murphy, the chairman of the consortium and of the department of educational leadership at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn.

The standards are now out for review by a broader audience, and the consortium expects to have a finished document ready by the end of December.

This marks the first time that states, which have the legal responsibility to license school administrators, have joined together voluntarily to create a common set of standards.

Paula M. Short, who chairs the department of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Missouri at Columbia, praised the initiative as "an attempt to improve the quality of leadership in our schools. It's an attempt to assure the public that people who provide leadership to schools and districts have attained a certain level of competence."

The chiefs have organized a similar consortium to work on standards for licensing new teachers, known as the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium.

Assessments Planned

Five of the states participating in the administrator-standards project--Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Texas--are working with the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., to create assessments for new principals based on the standards.

Phase one of the assessments will consist of a six-hour paper-and-pencil test of applied knowledge.

For example, one section of the test would ask candidates to respond to 12 short vignettes that describe situations typically encountered by principals.

In another section, candidates would have to answer a series of questions based on authentic school documents, such as test-score data, a school budget, or a school-improvement plan.

"One of the things we're trying to emphasize is that somebody couldn't just walk in off the street and come up with a reasonable response to those items," Mr. Shipman said.

"It would have to be a person who has a knowledge of teaching and learning," he said. "As much as I respect retired generals, I don't think that they necessarily would be able to do that. Nor could I go out and command the 5th battalion."

The first assessments will be ready by July 1 of next year.

Then, in phase two, the states will work with the ETS to come up with a model portfolio that could be used to evaluate school leaders.

Mr. Shipman said states will work together in the hope of saving money; it could cost as much as $1 million to develop the assessments.

States also could use the standards to improve preparation programs, strengthen the induction process for beginning principals, and guide professional development, he said.

Paul Bredeson, a professor of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said the standards "set a goal around which thoughtful program reform can occur."

The draft standards draw heavily on work done previously by the professional associations. They also reflect the curriculum guidelines for programs that prepare school leaders released last year by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (Please see "Standards for Administrators Are Released," October 11, 1995.)

The Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia, the Danforth Foundation of St. Louis, and fees from participating states--member states pay about $3,500 a year toward meeting and travel expenses--have paid for the consortium's work, which has cost about $400,000 to date.

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