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School & District Management

Time is Running Out to Comment on Disputed New School Leader Standards

By Denisa R. Superville — May 29, 2015 3 min read
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Time is running out to comment on the new set of standards for school leaders.

Today, May 29, is the final day to do so. The standards—the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards, or ISLLC—guide school leader preparation programs, evaluations, and hiring practices in many states. The last set of standards, released in 2008, were used to inform such policies in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The new standards are expected to define what school leaders—principals, superintendents, and others—must be able to know and do to lead in today’s schools. The seven standards released earlier this month—down from 11 in a 2014 draft—emphasize instruction, culture, and supporting and grooming leaders in schools. They are accompanied by a detailed introduction of characteristics of transformational leaders.

But not everyone is happy with the standards. They have been criticized by some educators and a representative from the National Association of Secondary School Principals for a lack of emphasis on some important challenges principal’s face, particularly those related to social justice. And with changes in the U.S. student population and national concern over issues of racial and socioeconomic inequality, those critics say it’s even more important that addressing those issues in school be explicitly included as part of a principal’s job.

A group of education professors have asked school leaders and parents to sign an open letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization that released the standards, to remedy those “glaring” omissions.

“At a time when researchers, practicing leaders, and public outcry have illuminated the need to reveal inequality and the systems that perpetuate it, the gaping omission of such language in the draft standards continues to make invisible the very students, families, and communities who have been disproportionately impacted by status quo approaches to leadership,” according to the May 22 letter signed by six educators, including an education college dean, the chairperson of an educational leadership department, and education university professors. (You can read their full letter here.)

They said that they believed the omissions “will undermine the work of school leaders, exacerbate inequalities in schools, and create disincentives for Colleges of Education and other licensing authorities to focus on educational equity as part of their credentialing process.” And they took issue with what they called “vague” language addressing the needs of every student.

Authors of the 2014 draft made attempts to address those concerns, they said. Those standards also included a focus on ethics. But the CCSSO has said that the 2014 draft was thought to be repetitive by some and lacked an emphasis on transformational leadership.

In an interview with Education Week earlier this month, Chris Minnich, the organization’s executive director, stressed that the standards were drafts, and that the final versions would incorporate feedback from the public. He disagreed with criticisms that the standards did not sufficiently address issues of student marginalization, race, and equity, and said those themes were woven through the standards.

“We’re not sure that we’ve totally got this right now, " Minnich said in that interview. “And that’s why we are doing another public comment period. So if there if something has been quote-unquote removed, I would challenge folks to think about where it might show up in the standards and where we might need to be clear that it’s still part of what we think principals should be doing.”

The college professors’ letter was only the latest in dissent. Joseph Murphy, professor of education leadership at Vanderbilt University, who led the writing of the original standards and was initially tasked with leading last year’s “refresh,” has criticized them on similar grounds. He called the new standards “conservative and impoverished.”

Beside procedural issues with how the standards were put together, Murphy has said that they have jettisoned ethical principles, cultural responsiveness, and equity and de-emphasized issues areas like community engagement and operations and management.

The CCSSO said Friday that it was pleased so far with the comments it had received and urged educators to comment before tonight’s deadline.

You can draw your own comparisons. Here are the 2014 and 2015 versions. You can provide your feedback to CCSSO here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.