Strength, Fairness, and Principals' Effectiveness

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

To the Editor:

In his online Commentary "Lessons Learned From the Chicago Public Schools" (May 26, 2009), Timothy Knowles correctly emphasizes the important role that principals play in successful schools, when he writes that “the best academic programs won’t succeed if they land in schools with weak principals.” It is not strength, however, but fairness that ultimately determines their effectiveness. This point is poorly understood in the ongoing school reform debate.

The state education code, school board policies, and court rulings already confer upon principals extraordinary power. It’s how they wield it that matters. Contrary to popular belief, this truism applies not only to execrable schools but to excellent ones as well. In fact, the most talented teachers are precisely the ones who will be the first to transfer out of even elite public schools if they feel bullied by their principals.

This is a significant reason veteran teachers in particular are wary about strategies that offer the opportunity to earn substantial pay raises in exchange for yielding on tenure protection. They know from bitter experience how easy it is for certain principals to abuse their power.

Walt Gardner
Los Angeles, Calif.

Vol. 28, Issue 35, Page 32

Published in Print: June 17, 2009, as Strength, Fairness, and Principals’ Effectiveness
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories