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Principals: Hitting a home run (and more)

April 02, 2018

As the teaching profession changed with the development of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system, so did the role of the principal. Instead of being the sole “instructional leader,” principals now have a team of leaders, with unique skill sets and abilities, to utilize as they work to improve student achievement.

And to that end, Governor Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Gregg held a press conference in March to announce that School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) has launched a statewide principal support program, which builds on the Iowa Department of Education’s previous work with the New York City Leadership Academy. This program is designed to support that transition and to maximize the impact of principals.

The administrator support program has sparked my thinking about what the most effective principals do differently. And given that the spring sports season is under way in Iowa, my framework for reflection is a sports analogy.

Baseball and softball fans will be familiar with the term “five tool players.” These players can hit for average (i.e. regularly get a hit when at bat), hit for power (i.e. hit doubles, triples, and home runs), run the bases well, have a strong arm, and can field the ball when it comes their way. They are the dream of coaches and fans alike. 

What, then, are the five tools of school leadership? I’ll share my five, though I hope this ignites your own reflection and furthers conversation on this critical topic. Five tool school leaders…

Communicate: They clearly articulate and share their school’s mission, vision and core values. They inspire stakeholders by communicating what student success looks like and how the school will achieve this for all students.

Cultivate: They build the capacity of others by developing leadership among teachers, students and community members. Effective school leaders develop relationships both inside and beyond the school itself. Ultimately, great school leaders bring out the best in others and they operate with an equity mindset to ensure they are focused on respect and fairness for all.

Collaborate: While being a leader, they also see themselves as part of a team. They actively engage with students, staff and community members.

Plan: They set goals, prioritize, use data to analyze progress and adjust course, and focus on making decisions in the best interest of all students.

Learn: Finally, effective school leaders are resilient, adaptable, and focused on continuous improvement. They are committed to learning each day for the betterment of their school.

As you consider your five tools, the Iowa Standards for School Leadership, the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, and the NYCLA Leadership Performance Planning Worksheet (which is available to those who are part of the principal support program), are all helpful reflection resources. I look forward to continuing this conversation as we further support and develop school leaders in Iowa.

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 20, 2021 at 6:05pm.