To the Editor:
We want to add an important dimension to the points Mary Amato raised in her Commentary “What Are We Doing to Support Great Teachers?” (Sept. 25, 2013)—specifically, the critical role that school leadership plays in school reform. There has been much recent dialogue and debate about teachers and student learning. No one in the education system has a greater impact. But what is often overlooked is that teachers do not work in a vacuum.
A teacher’s most important educational partner is her or his principal. It is the principal who creates the climate that values effective teaching, supports teacher collaboration, and uses data and instructional systems to enable cohesion throughout the building. It is the principal who hires, trains, supports, and retains teachers. It is the principal who is ultimately responsible for implementing changes.
Twenty-five percent of student success depends on principal quality. Principals’ impact is second only to that of teachers.
We at NYC Leadership Academy, or NYCLA, support the idea of a Great Teacher Initiative, like the one Ms. Amato writes about. But we also believe that an initiative of this kind will succeed only if we develop a tandem effort to provide principals with similar supports.
The good news is that we know how to do this. Schools with NYCLA-trained leaders have shown extraordinary results: a 35 percent rise in math scores; an 18 percent rise in English/language arts scores; parent engagement up by 18 percent; teacher engagement up by 13 percent; and student perception of safety up by 8 percent.
Too often, efforts at school reform have failed because we make changes in one area without making changes in others. We cannot afford to repeat this mistake. If our students are to learn, teachers must receive more support. A Great Teacher Initiative is desperately needed, but it will be doomed to fail without similar programs for school leaders.
Chief Executive Officer
NYC Leadership Academy
Long Island City, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the October 09, 2013 edition of Education Week as Principals’ Leadership Is Critical in Fostering Effective Teaching