Education Opinion

Principals Changing Public Education

By Tom Vander Ark — October 09, 2013 2 min read
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“We moved our school from a “C” on our first progress report to an “A,” thanks in no small part to the work we engaged in at SLN.” This principal quote
sums up the work of the School Leaders Network--results focused, collaborative learning for principals.

Somehow this group had not been on my radar screen until I meet CEO Elizabeth Neale last week.
As a former Massachusetts Principal of the year, Dr. Neale has been around the block but she has the enthusiasm for learning of a new teacher.

SLN got its start as a group of urban principals that started meeting in 2000 with seeding funding from the Rainwater Charitable Foundation. SLN was incorporated in 2006 to help principals “accelerate
transformational change in their schools.”

SLN has 40 networks of about a dozen principals each that work together with a facilitator on their technical and adaptive leadership challenges. About a
quarter of a million students benefit from the impact of SLN.

Mariah Cone is charged with helping SLN capture and share lessons learned. “Principals in the School Leaders Network achieve significant personal and
professional growth. We observe principals become more courageous instructional leaders, more insightful developers of strong teacher learning communities,
and more focused and targeted in their efforts to accelerate student achievement. As a result, 77% report improved school vision, 78% realize improvements
to collaborative school culture, and 75% report increasing leadership of others on their campus. We continue to be encouraged by our results, and as a
learning organization are ever focused on improving these outcomes.”

The virtual organization supports networks in DC, Dallas, Fort Worth, Hawaii, Hillsborough, Los
Angeles, NYC, Prince George’s County and San Antonio.

The work centers around five linked leadership responsibilities--grounded in the Wallace research:

1. Defining a vision, mission and goals that ensure academic success for all students.

2. Creating a culture that drives continuous improvement and ensures respectful relationships regardless of status.

3. Promoting leadership in others so that everyone is engaged in school improvement and committed to student success.

4. Improving instruction through clear expectations and data-driven collaboration.

5. Managing systems and operations to drive student success.

The SLN currently is focused intently on supporting principals with adaptive leadership work as they make groundbreaking changes to
their schools in order to implement the Common Core. According to Achieve, “The CCSS represent a
real shift in instructional intent from high school graduation to college and career readiness. This shift in intent means profound changes in the way
students learn and are assessed, in the way teachers teach, and in the way instructional leaders lead. The reality is that the responsibility for ensuring
high-quality, transformative professional development and fidelity of implementation will fall squarely on the shoulders of the school leaders.”

SLN isn’t intended to serve as an intervention system, it’s a good to great development system. Principals meet 10 times over the course of a
year. They start by setting specific growth targets and leadership strategies to improve outcomes for kids. They benefit from peer support, coaching and
dynamic mutual accountability to increase student academic success.

Supporters include MetLife and Boeing. The nonprofit is almost two thirds self-sustaining relying on district payments for principal participation.

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.