Principal mentors a factor in school turn-arounds

iStock_000021923625XSmallMore than half the nation’s states and many districts have recently introduced mentoring for principals, a sharp reversal of a long-held “sink-or-swim” attitude toward novice school leaders, says a new report from the Wallace Foundation. Developing good principals is one of the most effective and cost-effective ways to turn around a low-performing school, says the report, which makes recommendations for school improvement. Among the recommendations is to offer mentoring and peer support for principals.

Without quality criteria, however, mentoring can be just a buddy system that fails to help principals progress as effective instructional leaders. States and districts should ensure that mentoring is focused on student learning, the report says.  For instance, the NYC Leadership Academy uses a Leadership Performance Planning Worksheet that identifies key behaviors linked to successful instructional leadership.Some districts are creating networking groups for peer principals to support each other. “A good principal is the single most important determinant of whether a school can attract and keep the high-quality teachers necessary to turn around schools,” the report says.

Other recommendations for improving leadership in the report are to refocus central office staff to support principals more in their roles as instructional leaders rather than administrators and to emphasize improving instruction more in principal assessments.

“Research Findings To Support Effective Educational Policies, A Guide for Policymakers,” The Wallace Foundation, March 2011.

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