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Leadership--District Superintendent

What Does the Evidence Say?

School leadership only recently has begun to receive the attention it deserves as an education reform and policy issue. As yet, there is no strong research base to document various improvement strategies, but in the past year several major foundations have launched independent efforts to promote research and improved practice in the field. In addition, groups such as the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National School Boards Association and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration have issued recommendations that touch on the important issues involved. These reports commonly draw parallels between strategies advocated to improve teaching and those considered important to improve education leadership. Similarly, the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium has issued standards for school leaders just as INTASC has for teachers.

A number of important questions remain largely unanswered and ultimately have important implications for state policy.

  • To what extent, for example, is it necessary for principals and superintendents to have been classroom teachers?

  • In general, what experience and qualities are essential for effective school leaders?

  • Is it realistic to expect principals to be instructional leaders given the competing demands on their time, or should a new position dedicated solely to instructional leadership be developed and instituted in the schools?

  • Can the many responsibilities of education leadership be carried out effectively under the present school- and district-level administrative structures, or is a major reorganization needed, including changes in governance?

  • Are there special skills and talents school administrators need to succeed in hard-to-staff and low-performing schools?

  • Why isn't the leadership role (principal or superintendent), as currently defined, attracting enough highly qualified leaders? How do these roles need to change?

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