To the Editor:
“Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World,” the recent report by researchers at Stanford University in collaboration with the Washington-based policy-research group the Finance Project, is the latest word on the training and education of school leaders (“Study Sheds Light on Qualities of Best Training for Principals,” May 2, 2007).
“The findings show that high-performing principals are not just born, but can be made,” concludes Linda Darling-Hammond, the report’s lead author. This is an important statement that confirms the significance of the role of educational leadership programs.
The study found that principals who attended exemplary programs were more likely to engage in practices associated with effective instructional leadership, such as planning professional development, improving pedagogy, making decisions based on data, participating in curriculum development and instruction, providing feedback to teachers, building a professional community, and designing special programs to facilitate students’ learning.
Effective instructional practices are useful. The bottom line, however, is that leaders’ effectiveness must be demonstrated by students’ achievement. The question then becomes, do principals who graduate from exemplary programs have a higher rate of student achievement than those who do not? And the answer is, nobody knows! An educational leadership program that is exemplary must produce leaders who are change agents. This is the challenge of these programs around the world.
Now that we have established what would seem to be a basic principle that educational leadership programs are essential in the preparation of school leaders, research must focus on which programs prepare leaders best and for what types of educational contexts. This information will enable those of us dedicated to improving educational leaders to better serve our students.
Professor of Educational Leadership
City University of New York
A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2007 edition of Education Week as Leadership Programs Produce ‘Change Agents’