The leadership illusion
Gadfly has long harbored doubts about school turnarounds. The inertia of low-performing schools is great, and the middling reform efforts meant to alter their trajectories never go far enough. But at least, he surmised, even the softest districts almost always replace the leaders of their failing schools, right? Nope. According to a recent New York Times analysis (based on data from eight states), 44 percent of schools receiving federal turnaround money retained their principals. In Michigan, that figure spikes to 68 percent. The Times concludes that there simply aren’t enough high-quality principals available to lead these efforts. (If there were, we probably wouldn’t have quite so many failing schools.) But that doesn’t have to be the case; surely the outdated, onerous licensure requirements for principals are keeping many talented leaders (including corporate-style turnaround artists) out of the labor pool. So before we conclude that we’re facing a real “human capital” shortage, let’s tear down the wall keeping lots of good people out of our schools.
“U.S. Plan to Replace Principals Hits Snag: Who Will Step In?,” by Sam Dillon, New York Times, February 7, 2011.
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