Transforming Leadership Practice and Schools

Connect Lead Succeed partners with districts, Charter Management Organizations and other education organizations to develop and empower leaders to effectively execute school-wide transformational change and drive higher student achievement gains.  In partnership, we launch high-functioning professional learning networks for school leaders.

CLS professional learning networks provide 40 hours of rigorous, ongoing leadership development. Once a month, for ten consecutive months, leaders, leave the isolation of their schools, to join with 12-18 of their peers in a four- hour community of practice where they deep dive into actionable strategies for improving academic results.

CLS professional learning networks are distinguished by five key components:

1. Student Achievement Goal and Strategy

At the outset of the formation of a professional learning network, leaders hone their aspirations for school-wide student achievement gains by identifying a single student achievement goal and a strategy for attaining that goal.

2. Learning Focus: School Transformation

Learning is focused on the five leadership domains that research has identified as being most effective in improving school and student performance using CLS’ Design for Leading Framework.

3. Inquiry to Solve Problems of Practice 

Connect Lead Succeed professional learning networks function as a form of action-research to allow leaders to continually question, reevaluate, refine and improve thier leadership knowledge and practice. Leaders engage in inquiry-based learning and reflection in a safe, practice rich environment. Problems of practice are discussed and resolved using peer collaboration and coaching to foster professional growth.

4. Capacity Building

Professional learning networks build the capacity of leaders to facilitate high-functioning professional learning communities in their schools. Leaders gain experience of and access to new protocols, tools and resources for facilitating collaborative learning and for building instructional and teacher leadership. As school leaders become better at promoting leadership across their sites, leadership capacity grows school- and district-wide.

5. A High-Functioning Learning Environment 

oSkilled educators trained to facilitate inquiry-based, leadership development and, communities of practice lead SLN professional learning networks. Rigorous facilitation ensures the kind of intentionality, planning and in-the-moment changes that are essnetial to a high-quality network learning experience. Regular surveys of participants ensure individual learning nees are being met and drive data-driven continuous improvements.

Learn more about the Connect Lead Succeed network learning experience.

Results

Impact data shows that schools led by leaders who participate in a CLS professional learning network achieve substantial gains in student achievement. Increased student learning is a result of:

  • Stronger school leadership
  • Increased instructional and teacher leadership
  • Enhanced school cultures
  • Higher school performance
  • Improved principal retention

Participation in an CLS professional learning network increases the effectiveness, efficacy and tenacity of school leaders to advance instructional and teacher leadership, school performance and academic achievement.

Blue-Ribbon Schools and Public Responds to Churn

“Churn: The High Cost of Principal Turnover” was the central topic for discussion at a convening of principals from National Blue Ribbon Schools   headed by Jill Levine at the U.S. Department of Education. According to principals there, the central office serves as a major barrier to effective principal work, a problem that must be mediated. #nbrs2019.

In public response to our social media campaign, our followers comment:

“I love all the information you share. I have had 6 different principals over my career and 3 were in the first 5 years. I do see a connection with what you are saying and important impacts that made with longevity of principals.” (Teacher, Washington State)

“It’s time to recognize the complexity and intensity of the jobs of both teachers and school administrators and provide the support and resources necessary for them to excel and thrive in what they do (rather than slowly unravel from the stress) and thus be willing to stay as a result.” (Former principal, LAUSD)

“[Churn] Brings up valid points including the necessity of strong leadership that is over an extended period of time in order for a school to be effective.” (Teacher, LAUSD)

“School communities and district administrators need to listen carefully to Mariah Cone and the results of her study.” (Teacher Leader in Principal Credential Program, California).

“Need to think about ongoing systemic support for principals. Coaching & mentorship should be continuous thru a principals career.” (Associate Director, NASSP)

The Pipeline and Beyond

I was fortunate to attend the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership’s (AREL) annual convening this past Tuesday and Wednesday in Dallas, Texas. The purpose of the event was to bring smart, determined education reformers together to collaborate on exemplary principal leadership development programs. I left more convinced than ever that improving the school principal is essential if we want to make education better for all children. I felt hopeful that the AREL Network of principal preparation programs is achieving transformative outcomes at schools around the country through their critical work. I also felt like a part of the story was missing.

I wondered why, by and large, we invest in principals almost exclusively at the beginning of their careers? What happens to them after they graduate from these and other preparation programs? Is preparation enough?

The sad truth is that more than one in every five principals leave their schools each year, with annual turnover rates as high as 30% in some districts. In Charters, 70% of principals don’t stay on beyond year five. And turnover hurts schools and students. Furthermore, there are nearly 100,000 acting principals across the nation, only a fraction have graduated from great, well funded programs, like the ones I learned from at the AREL convening. In one study, 59% of prinicpals reported they would do a better job if they had relevant professional development.

School Leaders Network has a unique solution to both realities; provide principals meaningful ongoing professional development using the most affordable and available resource around – well-facilitated networks of principals.

Our results confirm this, as nationally, 98% of School Leaders Network leaders report their Network learning met important needs, and 97% report taking action on new learning, which is leading them to be better leaders. Only 1% of SLN members reported plans to leave leadership and 6% were unsure about their future career decisions; that’s a 77% improvement over typical turnover figures.

If the solution to such a significant problem is present, documented, and showing these results year after year – isn’t now the time for us to rethink what we’re doing and invest in principals long term? After all, they’re leading our children’s school today.

Charter Principal Churn

Principal Churn at Charters is particularly damning. In one report 71% of Charter leader respondents did not intend to lead their campus beyond the next five years. In a discussion posted by EdWize,

  1. “Many charter schools are still led by their original founders, and when they leave, the transition can be tricky.
  2. Charter schools are often starting from scratch when it comes to finding a leader’s replacement.
  3. Many charter schools are in denial when it comes to leadership turnover — half have no transition plan.”

And according to Larry Cuban:

“These founders and their successors have complicated tasks in mobilizing political and economic support for the mission of the charter school, establishing a separate facility or one within a regular public school, dealing with the governing board, negotiating constantly with district officials who provide funding, and a score of other leadership tasks including managing efficiently a new school and supervising teachers. In short, charter school principals are closer to being superintendents in overall responsibilities, albeit only for one school, than a traditional principal in regular schools.”

In a report by the New York Charter School Center revealed in 2012 that one in five charter leaders leave their school each year. Not coincidentally – teacher turnover is also twice the average of the district, with one-third leaving turning over each year.

Cities Struggle with Principal Retention

According to a GFBrandenburg – the District of Columbia has a major problem of principal churn. According to Brandenburg’s research a full 64.6% of DC principals were in their first three years of the principalship. New figures cited in a live Making the Grade report on KPFW in DC, identified that this year principals for 19% of DCPS schools were newly hired, a figure that is more than twice the national average for principal hires. Brandenburg titles his piece: Teacher and Administrative Churn – It’s not a Bug, It’s a Feature of Education Deform in DC and Elsewhere. Sadly the School Leaders Network has found that it is a trend that must be addressed to prevent continuing and dire consequences for school children nationally.

Other cities with major principal retention issues include Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where principals were hired for more than a quarter of their schools this year, more than triple that national average.

Denver has revolving door problems in specific schools, Colorado’s Chalkbeat found that 34 of their 185 schools had three or more principals since 2010. These schools serve the highest needs students. The consequences of this rate of turnover are drops in student achievement, instable school cultures, and higher rates of teacher turnover.