School & District Management

10 Bold Ideas Principals Can Embrace This School Year

By Stacey Decker — August 10, 2018 3 min read
Carrie P. Meek/Westview K-8 Center principal Marchel Woods, center rear, greets parents dropping off their children for class on Oct. 5, 2020, at the Carrie P. Meek/Westview K-8 Center in Miami.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Principals, the start of a new school year can be hectic. But it’s also a time to reflect – and potentially change your ways. (Think of the new year as a fresh slate.)

Have you considered tackling a perennial issue head on this year? Or totally rethinking one of your school’s standard practices?

To find some innovative ideas for principals to ponder this year, we dug into the Education Week archives. Here are 10 suggestions—big and small—for shaking things up:

1. Give parent-teacher conferences a makeover

Schools across the country are ditching the traditional parent-teacher conference for academic workshops, where parents learn the skills their children need to master. Here’s how it works.

2. Shadow a student

Understanding how school feels to a student is best learned by putting yourself in their shoes. To do this, consider shadowing a student. Assistant Principal Karen Ritter of East Leyden High, outside Chicago did just that, and gained important insights on her school’s policies and practices. Watch what happened and see what she learned:

3. Get coached

“If instructional coaching is beneficial to teachers, shouldn’t leadership coaching be beneficial to principals?” Former principal and opinion blogger Peter DeWitt says the answer is yes. Have you thought about it? Here’s his argument why you should.

4. Rethink school suspensions

In- and out-of-school suspensions have come under increasing scrutiny as a discipline tactic. Students who’ve been suspended are more likely to drop out or be referred to law enforcement. Suspensions are also disproportionately dished out to students of color. The Cleveland school district has ditched in-school suspensions altogether. And researchers at Stanford University found one key to reducing suspensions might be a healthy dose of respect. Read an analysis of that research.

5. Take little steps to improve attendance

If you can’t get the kids to school, nothing else you do matters. But new research on chronic absenteeism reveals surprising details that can make a difference in whether students make it to class. Here are three studies with tips for tackling absenteeism.

6. Make school more memorable

How can schools encourage deeper learning? Chip and Dan Heath, bestselling authors and researchers argue it’s about creating “peak moments.” They capture “delight” and offer “a different kind of learning that sticks with students and motivates them to succeed.” Here’s their take.

7. Know which relationships are key, then strengthen them

Principal Robert Kuhl says there are six relationships that characterize great schools. Some are obvious, while others – like the relationship between work done in school and work done in the adult world – are not. A look at Kuhl’s framework for strengthening these relationships could change how you focus your energy this year. Take a look.

8. Hold back

“The true beauty in leadership, though, is being able to discern when to pull back and not give teachers things they don’t need,” writes Monica Washington, the 2014 teacher of the year in Texas. Washington’s favorite principals were defined not by what they did, but what they didn’t do. Specifically, these four things.

Along those lines ...

9. Acknowledge your leadership weaknesses

Administrators can make or break a school culture, argues veteran educator Mary Alicia Lyons. She recently shared her takeaways from working with administrators who’ve spanned the spectrum from frustrating to fantastic. Do any of her characteristics of difficult administrators sound familiar?

10. Teach

Education leadership experts will tell you that principals doing “double duty” as teachers wouldn’t work in all schools. But in this Maryland school system, it’s a long tradition. And the educators who do it attest to the benefits. Here’s what they say.

Hopefully these ideas have left you feeling inspired or motivated. For more, view our special report, Principals Under Pressure, that offers strategies for mastering the toughest job in schools.

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion Start the School Year With Purpose. Here Are 5 Priorities
Despite the challenges educators face, they know how to improve schools for students and teachers, writes an education professor.
Tyrone C. Howard
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration of public school opening for a new school year
sangaku/iStock/Getty
School & District Management School Leaders With Disabilities: 'It's Important to Share That You're Not Alone'
Educators say their own experience gives them insight into the needs of students with disabilities and how to support them.
14 min read
Joe Mazza, 44, the principal at Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, N.Y., was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. He says the diagnosis has informed his leadership, allowing him to engage with students and parents who face the same neurodevelopmental disorder. On June 24, 2022, he starts his day in the Media Studio as fifth-grader Anna Villa prepares for the morning newscast.
Joe Mazza, 44, the principal at Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, N.Y., was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. He said the diagnosis has informed his leadership, allowing him to engage with students and parents who face the same neurodevelopmental disorder.
Christopher Capozziello for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion You're an Educator. What Can You Stop Doing This Year?
Teachers and education leaders often feel stretched for time. Here are 9 ways to rethink your schedule.
5 min read
CartoonStock 543822 CS458303
Cartoon Stock
School & District Management Top Tips for New Assistant Principals From Those Who've Been There
Nurture relationships, learn on the job, take care of yourself—and other key advice.
5 min read
Image of leaders as a central figures to a variety of activities in motion.
Laura Baker/Education Week and gobyg/DigitalVision Vectors