Leadership is the key to school improvement. That’s become the mantra of academics, foundation officials, and policymakers at every level.
What’s often not clear is what principals and superintendents should actually do.
To begin to fill that void, the Education Commission of the States is working on a how-to guide on effective leadership. The Denver-based group plans to examine leadership practices in successful districts and turn them into a set of practical lessons.
“The idea is to operationalize what leadership means,” said Katy Anthes, a policy analyst at the ECS. “It’s when I get to work on Monday, what do I do?”
Ms. Anthes said the “tool kit,” as the ECS calls the guide, likely will include interactive software that lets leaders evaluate their schools’ management efforts and offers ideas on what to do next. It also will include suggestions of state policies that can help local education leaders meet their improvement goals.
The project is underwritten by $350,000 from the New York City-based MetLife Foundation.
MetLife also has awarded grants of $3,000 each to 36 elementary and secondary school leaders to help them build stronger ties with parents and students.
Foundation officials initiated the awards after MetLife surveys last year showed sharp differences in the views of principals and others in their school communities. For instance, 89 percent of principals polled said their schools were welcoming to parents, but just 61 percent of parents thought so.
The National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals chose the grantees. A Boston school leader, for example, won a grant for a project in which students organize tours of their neighborhoods for teachers.
“Unless we can effectively communicate with parents, it’s going to be much more difficult for us to educate children to the levels that we need to,” said Vincent L. Ferrandino, the executive director of the NAESP.