Last week, Eduflack was fortunate to visit America’s heartland in pursuit of a better way to prepare tomorrow’s school principals and district leaders today. We’ve all seen the research. After classroom teachers themselves, we know that school leaders have the second-greatest impact on learning. Some research even says a school principal accounts for 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement. Yet the preparation of said leaders seems to get short shrift in today’s debates on school quality.
As a result, too many of our current education leadership programs are focused on quantity and how many graduates they can provide administrator’s credentials to in the shortest period of time. It isn’t necessarily about quality. It isn’t necessarily about ensuring tomorrow’s principals have the skill sets to lead tomorrow’s schools. And it rarely is about who those future leaders can lead by example in their quests to improve student achievement, serving as the instructional leaders they truly are.
So it was heartwarming to see efforts in two states that break the leader prep mold and focus on how best to prepare tomorrow’s school administrators. In both Indiana and Wisconsin, efforts are underway to create a more rigorous terminal degree to prepare school leaders. In each state, business schools are taking the lead, offering MBA courses given through an education lens, combined with clinical instruction and meaningful partnerships with local k-12 school districts.
The expected result? A new generation of education leaders who are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and tools to help close the achievement gaps in the schools they will soon lead. And we are talking about closing the dual achievement gaps we currently face, the gaps we see within and between states here in the United States and the gaps we unfortunately see with our nation’s highest performing schools and their peer institutions internationally.
Chalkbeat Indiana’s Hayleigh Colombo has the story on how a generous gift from the Lilly Endowment is expanding the Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellows program in Indiana. And Erin Richards at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has the story on how Wisconsin is blending school leadership and business acumen.
Both pieces are well worth the read. If we are serious about getting excellent administrators into our schools and districts, we need to examine new ways to prepare those leaders, providing them more than just traditional pedagogy. Programs like those in Indiana and Milwaukee are working to do just that.