School & District Management

Lack of School Leadership Seen as a Global Problem

By Lynn Olson — April 15, 2008 3 min read

A study to be released this week suggests that improving school leadership is a problem around the world, not just in the United States.

The study of 22 nations, conducted by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that the roles and responsibilities of school leaders have expanded dramatically in the past few decades. At the same time, the workforce of principals in many nations is nearing retirement, and a majority of countries studied reported difficulties in finding enough suitable job candidates.

An executive summary of the report, “Improving School Leadership: Policy and Practice,” was to be released at an April 14-15 conference on the topic in Copenhagen, sponsored by the OECD and the Danish Ministry of Education. The full report will be published in June.

It identifies four main policy levers that countries can use to improve the effectiveness of school leaders.

Many nations, it found, need to clarify the core roles and responsibilities of principals to provide a firmer foundation for recruitment, training, and evaluation efforts.

At the same time, they need to consider distributing leadership tasks beyond just the school leader. The report cites a growing body of research that suggests learning improves when teachers and others take on formal and informal leadership responsibilities.

The United States did not take part in the study.

Rising Demands

The study calls for better professional development for current school leaders and better preparation for future school leaders. In many countries, it notes, the only requirement for becoming a principal is teaching experience. Yet teaching does not guarantee individuals have the knowledge and skills needed to run a learning-centered school, particularly in today’s accountability-driven environment, it says.

“Ensuring that principals and those involved in leadership receive adequate training and preparation to develop the right skills is crucial for effective leadership,” the report says. Such training, it says, should be provided along a continuum, from initial preparation through ongoing training and support.

The study also found that countries should do more to make school leadership an attractive career.

Across participating nations, it found, negative job images, insufficient salaries relative to responsibilities, and inadequate attention to recruitment and succession planning have discouraged people from entering the profession.

“In many countries,” it says, “expectations and demands on school leaders have continuously increased, but the corresponding supports and incentives have not always been aligned with the new requirements.”

Solutions Within Reach

The good news, according to the study, is that the relatively small size of the principal workforce, when compared with the teaching profession, makes tackling such problems feasible.

“Developing the workforce of principals promises to be a highly cost-effective human-capital investment,” it argues, “as quality leadership can directly influence the motivations, attitudes, and behaviors of teachers and indirectly contribute to the improved learning of millions of children. The fact that such a small group of people can potentially have an impact on every student and teacher in the country makes principals a key policy lever for educational improvements.”

Michael Fullan, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and a special adviser on education to the premier of Ontario, commended the report for tackling such a central topic and “doing a very thorough job—well grounded in the literature and practice.

He said that principals need to “lead the way” in developing a collaborative culture among teachers that focuses on “ongoing, relentless improvement of instruction.”

The study is based on background reports provided by each participating country using a common framework and on a small number of case studies. Among the participants were Australia, Finland, France, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

A version of this article appeared in the April 16, 2008 edition of Education Week as Lack of School Leadership Seen as a Global Problem

Events

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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
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
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
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
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

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 Is the Assistant Principal the Most Overlooked, Undervalued Person at School?
A new research review on assistant principals finds that the role is undefined and that support for these school leaders is inconsistent.
7 min read
 teachers and leaders looking around for direction
Mykyta Dolmatov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion Pandemic Recovery Will Be Complex. We’ll Need the Best School Leaders
To face the education challenges of today and tomorrow, we must invest in the principal pipeline, writes Michael J. Petrilli.
Michael J. Petrilli
4 min read
Leader pointing hand forward, directing boat forward through corona virus crisis
iStock / Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion The Year of Scourges: How I Survived Illness and Racism to Find My 'Tribe'
A Black school leader reflects on the hardest year of her professional life.
Reba Y. Hodge
4 min read
new growth on a bare tree
Vanessa Solis/Education Week & Getty Images
School & District Management From Our Research Center How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Surveys by the EdWeek Research Center show how schools have changed during the pandemic and what adjustments are likely to stick.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School on Oct. 6, 2020, in Rye, N.Y.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School in Rye, N.Y., last fall.
Mary Altaffer/AP