“Broad”-ening Ed Leadership Opportunities

As Eduflack has written previously, some research shows that a good school principal can account for 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement. In the education space, we talk a great deal about the importance of having top-notch principals and superintendents and central office personnel in place, but we do so with the same, sometimes lame ed leadership programs serving as their training grounds.

We know that many of these ed leadership graduate degree programs aren’t of the highest quality. We know that many enroll in them just to move up the salary scale and get a bump in pay. And we know that few of these programs are providing aspiring leaders with the skills, knowledge, and support they need to be both the managers and instructional leaders we seek and that so many of our kids need.

It’s one of the reasons I get so excited about the work I’m involved with at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, where we are now working in three states, and with many more universities, to provide aspiring school and district leaders with a high-impact MBA program for education leaders. I know our model works because I witness the impact. I can see how an MBA path steeped in a strong academic program, an equally robust clinical experience, and multi-year mentoring can transform a great teacher into a tremendous ed leader.

And I get equally excited when I see announcements like I did this week from the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. For those following from home, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities granted Initial Accreditation to the Broad Center.

This is an important announcement because it demonstrates there is more than one path toward being an effective school leader. Through its Broad Residency in Urban Education, the Broad Center provides a two-year management development program for career-switchers looking to move into top levels of K-12 urban public education systems. They come out of the Broad program with a master’s of education in educational leadership, and now, thanks to WASC, they graduate with an accredited degree, ready to take on the world and help run an urban school system.

Yes, some of the haters will continue to crow about Broad and ask how this could happen. But let’s remember, WASC isn’t a “reform organization.” It is the quasi-governmental body that oversees higher education institution in California, Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Basin. It is the West Coast equivalent of NEASC, which oversees the likes of Harvard and MIT. in the Northeast. It is a long-standing, established institution embedded into the very fabric of American higher education.

In granting the Broad Center this important approval, the WASC Educational Effectiveness Review Team, according to Broad, commended The Broad Residency for “a very rich data-driven program of unusual depth,” “reflecting a pervasive spirit of inquiry and a commitment to continuous improvement” and for being “painstaking and comprehensive in its assessment of its programs, residents’ learning and satisfaction during the residency period, and through the residents’ career preparation.”

I get that accreditation decisions rarely grab the headlines and public attention. But let’s not overlook the significance of Broad joining the WASC accreditation club. It is a strong acknowledgement that there are different ways to effectively prepare school leaders, and it is an even stronger nod to the need for new, innovative approaches to educational leadership preparation.

No, this isn’t your grandpa’s ed leader prep program, and that’s a good thing. As our needs continue to change, as our demands continue to grow, and as our hunger for accountability and quality continues to expand, we need better prep mousetraps that truly develop a cadre of diverse, effective ed leaders. This is another step toward that.

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