January 7, 2007

Another data point

Add another data point to the tally. NCLB is starting to have a positive effect:

So the Dallas Independent School District is re-engineering the principal's job. Gone is the focus on campus operations and administration. Student learning is now the chief concern.

Principals are to be curriculum hawks and instructional coaches, responsible for identifying their schools' academic shortcomings and devising ways for teachers to address them.

The bureaucratic tasks and paper-pushing requirements of running a school are being delegated to assistants and office staff.

"The job description has really changed," said Jennifer Parvin, principal at Arturo Salazar Elementary School. "It's my job to go into classrooms and make judgments on how we can improve."

It may sound like common sense: making principals accountable for the instruction on campus. But those who study education say that's often not the case, and that's a problem.

"In urban districts, principals have typically been building managers," said Dan Katzir, who heads up programs for the recruitment and training of principals for the Broad Foundation, a California philanthropy with a prominent voice in urban school reform.


That's called taking your eye off the ball. And, that's exactly what our educators did. Took their eye off the ball. For about three decades. Tthe education of the students needs to be the principal's number one priority.

6 comments:

Instructivist said...

That response to NCLB -- if that's what it is -- must be the exception. Usually, educationists have a great capacity to turn every good idea and intention into an absurdity.

Here in Chicago, for example, educationists with policy-making power had the bright idea to force the worst fuzzy crap programs on schools identified as failing under NCLB. That's sure gonna help to meet the AYP requirement.

Michael said...

"Principal" is short for "principal teacher." It's time we got back to that model.

allen said...

Yeah but Michael, you can't get there from here.

At least not in a school district. Too many layers of management filled with too many people whose job it is to prove the importance of their job to let something is unimportant as education get in the way.

Michael said...

Allen, it depends on the size of the school district. I live in a town of 4500, with a school district comprising three schools (elementary, middle, and secondary)and a total of 1000 students. There are trade-offs, but the principals could be principal teachers (FWIW, the elementary school is at 97% and 100% compliance in reading and math according to the Dept of Ed).

allen said...

Yes and no.

A small enough school district puts a cap on the sorts of organizational shenanigans that are possible and the smaller a school district is the less potential there is for organizational shenanigans. But the motivation for administrative fecundity exists in all organizations. It just reaches is fullest flower in government in general and public education in particular.

That's not to say that you won't find the same motivation in private industry but there are natural limiting effects that put an end to organizational metastases. It may be board of directors alarm at the impact of cost increases on the bottom line or it may be a Chapter 11 reorganization but sooner or later something puts the skids on the proliferation of administrators.

Not so in public education. If there's resistance to the growth of management it inevitably results from the determination of one person or a small group of persons. Once they inevitably move on, are replaced, lose interest, lose an election or retire it's a coin-flip whether the replacement will have the skill and determination to hold the line.

To understand how this impacts teachers just keep in mind that teachers are at the bottom of the professional hierarchy in public education. Everybody is more important then teachers so the growth of staff in non-teaching roles far exceeds the growth of teaching staff. In the context of public education it even makes sense.

Since measuring educational efficacy, theoretically the purpose for the existence of the public education system, wasn't much of a consideration until the advent of NCLB did it make more sense to hire teachers or non-teachers? Education wasn't being measured, ergo it wasn't that important, so why hire people whose primary perhaps only duty, is education?

Michael said...

Since measuring educational efficacy, theoretically the purpose for the existence of the public education system, wasn't much of a consideration until the advent of NCLB did it make more sense to hire teachers or non-teachers? Education wasn't being measured, ergo it wasn't that important, so why hire people whose primary perhaps only duty, is education?

But now that testing is far more important, bureaucracies to deal with testing are more likely to grow. It still makes more sense to hire bureaucrats.