Importing Leaders for School Turnaround
An effective leader is vital to an effective school, especially when that school is a turnaround. Unfortunately, those equipped to lead rapid change in consistently low-performing schools are in short supply. In this report, Public Impact suggests that school leaders be imported from untapped pipelines of talent lying outside of the education sector. Instead of adhering to traditional practice of recruiting from within, schools can replenish the dwindling principal pool and revive turnaround schools by selecting leaders from other areas.
In looking for a new leader, the report recommends that schools select for a number of qualities. Those best suited to lead turnarounds possess the unique ability to motivate, problem-solve, and confidently lead students and staff. The report also outlines key areas in which non-traditional candidates should be trained. To ensure that a new hire is quickly brought up to speed, a clear action plan should be put in place that allows a new school leader and his or her staff to hit the ground running. Leaders coming from outside education should also be trained in the elements of highly effective, high-poverty schools.
In Ohio, where 42 schools are already beginning turnaround efforts under the federal School Improvement Grant program (to say nothing of the list to be overhauled under recently passed provisions in Ohio’s budget), most of the schools must replace top leadership. Where will these high-capacity school leaders come from? Simply rotating the existing pool of principals is ineffective and previous attempts at overhaul among Ohio schools illustrated that without real leadership change, turnarounds are largely meaningless. Some schools got by with a simple internal shift while others swapped in a principal from another failing school. Whatever the case, turnaround schools in Ohio and elsewhere would be wise to invigorate themselves by introducing a breath of fresh air from outside the traditional leadership pipelines.
Importing Leaders For
Julie Kowal and Emily Ayscue Hassel
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