Thoughts on High: In a ranch-style retreat high above the beaches of Malibu, Calif., Los Angeles’ top school leaders met recently to rethink how principals should do their jobs. Their main conclusion: Principals should spend a lot more time in the classroom.
The meeting was part of an unusual executive training program financed by the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation and run by Lauren B. Resnick, the director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. The monthly program brings together the 11 local district superintendents of the newly reorganized Los Angeles Unified School District, Superintendent Roy Romer’s top education staff, Ms. Resnick, and local education consultants.
One goal is for school principals to spend half their time in classrooms, school halls, and teacher’s lounges acting as instructional leaders, said Stephanie Brady, a spokeswoman for the 723,000-student district.
“To truly reform the school district,” Mr. Romer said last week, “you need to start at the top and the bottom, the superintendents, the subdistrict superintendents, the principals. We obviously have a need to start at the bottom if we want all children to learn.”
He added that the district would focus on teacher preparation, a strong curriculum, and class-size reduction as part of its emphasis on “instruction, instruction, instruction.”
Mr. Romer, the former Colorado governor who became the district’s schools chief last year, tapped Ms. Resnick, whom he has known for 10 years, to run the program on instructional leadership. Ms. Resnick is an expert in “effort-based learning,” the idea that a child learns more not because of his IQ, but his hard work.
Since last fall, Ms. Resnick has flown to Los Angeles once a month to meet with school leaders. Every other month, they go on a retreat, such as the one in Malibu, said Dan Katzir, the director of program development for the Broad Foundation.
The philanthropy will spend an estimated $100,000 on the training program’s first year, and even more during the second one.
Mr. Katzir added that the foundation is “agnostic” on whether instructional leadership raises student performance. But, he said, “we really want to help Roy, since this is the organization structure that he wants, and he’s trying to help change the culture so people are focused on student learning.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2001 edition of Education Week