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   High School » High School Commission Report » HS for 21st- Inst. Leadership & Prof. Development
  Chapter Four  

Instructional Leadership
and Professional Development

Leadership could be considered the single most important aspect of effective school reform.”
Robert Marzano,
Educational consultant

Leadership matters, as Robert Marzano clearly states above, in order for high school reform to be successful and sustainable.

Jim Collins, a business consultant and author of the best-selling book Good to Great, puts it another way. “Great vision without great people is irrelevant,” he writes. To illustrate his point, Collins uses as an analogy a bus filled with employees.

“The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great,” Collins writes, “did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.”

The good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths, Collins explains.
  • “First, if you begin with who, rather than what, you can more easily adapt to a changing world. If people join the bus primarily because of where it is going, what happens if you get ten miles down the road and you need to change direction? You’ve got a problem. But if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then it’s much easier to change direction: ‘Hey, I got on this bus because of who else is on it; if we need to change direction to be more successful, fine with me.’

  •  “Second, if you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.
  •  “Third, if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company.”
While the bus analogy is used in a business context, it also applies to high school reform. In order to change the culture under which schools have long operated, they need a vision. But, most importantly, schools require a team of teachers who are committed to developing a vision and working together with other teachers to ensure that the vision is sustained.

Again, Great vision without great people is irrelevant.

Education consultants Rick DuFour and Doug Reeves assert that it’s a myth that high school reform can take place only until there is buy-in from everybody.

“The cycle of organizational improvement is not vision, buy-in and action,” Reeves writes in his book The Learning Leader, “ but rather vision, action, buy-in and more action.”

Behavior precedes belief. Therefore, Reeves concludes, “If you wait for people to have buy-in, be happy or change belief systems, then change will never happen.”

Each high school in Ventura County is different, with its own unique needs. So, we’re not advocating a one-size-fits-all plan for high school reform, but we are offering a one-size-fits-all process for reinventing high schools.

As we have covered in previous chapters, our high schools must change with the times in order for all students to be prepared to compete in an ever-changing global economy. And research by the National Staff Development Council has shown that leadership for change is most effective when:

-- It is carried out by a small group of educators with the principal serving as a strong cohesive force. The notion that an individual can affect change by sheer will and personality is simply not supported by research. Conversely, a leadership team that is too large risks becoming inert. A smaller group is more powerful in overcoming inertia. What is most important is that substantive change must be supported by both administrators and teachers.

 -- The leadership team operates in such a way as to provide strong guidance while demonstrating great concern for those not on the team. The principals and leadership teams cannot micromanage their school, the views of all in the school must be considered.

-- It is characterized by specific behaviors that improve interpersonal relationships. Optimism provides hope, and honesty builds trust. Leadership teams are successful when members talk about the possibilities that exist at their school, not its limitations.

In schools that have restructured into Professional Learning Communities, the principal does not assume the primary responsibility for instructional leadership; that’s left to the teachers in the school who take on leadership roles. They help their colleagues by:
  • Supporting them through peer coaching.
  • Observing them in the classroom.
  • Conferring with them on teaching and learning.
  • Empowering them to make important decisions on their own.
Instructional leaders also promote professional growth by:
  • Studying literature and proven professional growth programs.
  • Supporting risk-taking, creativity and innovation.
  • Providing effective staff development programs.
  • Providing resources and time during the school day to aid collaboration.
  • Offering feedback and suggestions.
In addition, instructional leaders promote teacher reflection by:
  • Modeling and developing action research skills.
  • Having teachers ask questions about the school.
  • Using data to question, evaluate and critique teaching and learning.
  • Extending autonomy to teachers.
  • Developing a shared vision on the direction of the school.
Professional Development Standards

The National Staff Development Council is the largest non-profit professional association committed to ensuring success for all students through staff development and school improvement. The NSDC has developed a set of staff development standards, divided into three categories: context, process and content. They all are guided by the following three questions:
  • What are all students expected to know and be able to do?
  • What must teachers know and do in order to ensure student success?
  • Where must staff development focus to meet both goals?
Context Standards

Staff development that improves the learning of all students:
  • Organizes adults into learning communities whose goals are aligned with those of the school and district. (Learning Communities).
  • Requires skillful school and district leaders who guide continuous instructional improvement. (Leadership).
  • Requires resources to support adult learning and collaboration. (Resources).
Process Standards

Staff development that improves the learning of all students:
  • Uses disaggregated student data to determine adult learning priorities, monitor progress, and help sustain continuous improvement. (Data-Driven).
  • Uses multiple sources of information to guide improvement and demonstrate its impact. (Evaluation).
  • Prepares educators to apply research to decision making. (Research-Based).
  • Uses learning strategies appropriate to the intended goal. (Design).
  • Applies knowledge about human learning and change. (Learning).
  • Provides educators with the knowledge and skills to collaborate. (Collaboration).
Content Standards

Staff development that improves the learning of all students:
  • Prepares educators to understand and appreciate all students, create safe, orderly and supportive learning environments, and hold high expectations for their academic achievement. (Equity).
  • Deepens educators’ content knowledge, provides them with research-based instructional strategies to assist students in meeting rigorous academic standards, and prepares them to use various types of classroom
    assessments appropriately. (Quality Teaching).
  • Provides educators with knowledge and skills to involve families and other stakeholders appropriately.
    (Family Involvement).    
We urge districts in Ventura County to create an environment in each of their schools that encourages educators to work together to help all students achieve to a higher level. We also recommend districts and schools to learn more about the strategies, principles and frameworks of Professional Learning Communities.

What Can I Do?

To ensure that all high school students gain maximum benefit from 21st Century high schools that emphasize instructional leadership and professional development, we recommend the following:

School Board members:
  • Hire and support superintendents who recognize the importance of building a strong team of leaders.
  • Institute policies for shadowing leaders in other school districts.
  • Invest in development of principals.
  • Work with superintendents to reconsider the job descriptions of principals so that they can focus on academics.
Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents:
  • Address the time element involved for a principal to build a strong team of leaders.
  • Develop a vision with achievable goals.
  • Invest in the professional development of principals.
  • Engage in shared learning by attending professional development opportunities with principals.
  • Participate in professional development put on by local universities and professional associations.
  • Establish forums to reduce isolation and share best practices.
  • Encourage and support distributed leadership.
  • Take advantage of the expertise already on your campuses by creating opportunities for your leaders to shine.
  • Build relationships with the business community.
  • Participate in public forums to explain school’s goals.
Teachers and Counselors:
  • Actively participate in Data Teams and other site leadership teams.
  • Participate in developing power standards.
  • Create a professional development plan.
  • Actively participate in professional development opportunities and events.
Business Community:
  • Volunteer to spend time with your school leaders to better understand their challenges.
  • Volunteer your time and expertise by participating in Parent Teacher Student Association leadership teams.
  • Association of California School Administrators. Leadership Matters. www.acsa.org.
  • R. Blasé and R. Blasé (2004). Handbook of Instructional Leadership. How Successful Principals Promote Teaching and Learning. Thousand Oaks. Corwin.
  • Collins, J. (2001).  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap – And Others Don’t. www.jimcollins.com.
  • Collins, J. (2005, November). Good to Great and the Social Sectors, HarperCollins Publishers.

  • Johnson, R. (2002). Using Data to Close the Achievement Gap: How to Measure Equity in Schools. Thousand Oaks, Sage Publishing.
  • Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D.J., and Pollock, J.E. (2000). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement

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