‘Copers’ and ‘Transformers’
Which kind of principal do we want for our struggling schools?
Does it matter how someone talks about his or her job? If you were hiring a principal for a struggling school, what would you look for? A candidate with a specific plan to turn the school around, or one who would respond to day-to-day events as they occur?
This is the question that leaps out of Public Agenda’s latest work on school leadership, a series of focus groups with principals in high-needs public schools conducted for the Wallace Foundation . Our goal was to delve beneath the broad-spectrum discussion on reclaiming struggling schools to ask principals who work in them what they actually do on a daily basis. We wanted to know what changes they believe would help them succeed, and what skills they consider essential to their jobs. It was a small-scale study—not definitive by any stretch of the imagination—but what we saw was unforeseen and intriguing.
We talked to men and women from different backgrounds working in high-needs districts in different parts of the country. Across the board, they cared deeply about the schools and students in their charge. As far as we could tell, they were all motivated and hardworking. Yet after relatively short conversations, the majority fell into one of two distinct categories—they were either “transformers” or “copers.” The contrasts in how these two groups talked about being a...
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- Chattahoochee Hills Charter School, Multiple Locations
- Chief Academic Officer
- Maryland State Department of Education, MD
- Ann Arbor Public Schools, Ann Arbor, MI
- Portola Valley School District, Portola Valley, CA
- Roaring Fork School District, Carbondale, CO