In the past three weeks, we have been discussing six K-12 major educational issues related to instructional leadership at the micro level. The issues we discussed were: Principal and Teacher Opinions of walkthroughs, Teacher Professional Development, Administrators Training for TKES/LKES for walkthroughs, The Process of Recruiting Principals, The Number of Males vs Female Principals, and Teachers Opinions Regarding Professional Learning. In this reflection, I will briefly touch on three of these issues. In my reflection, I will highlight issues that stood out to me personally during our discussions. I will also discuss how I see these issue impacting me in my capacity as an instructional leader. Furthermore, I will offer my observations and suggestions on how I may grow as an instructional leader while tackling this issue.
American schools have seen a major shift from its focus on student learning to a focus on teacher evaluation and high stakes student testing after the release of the A Nation At Risk Report in 1983 (Anderson, 2009). Among other things, the release of this report has contributed to the ever-growing assertion that American schools are failing. The failing schools narrative has led to various school reform efforts at the school, the local district, the state, and at the national levels (Lavitch, 2009). Some of the recent school reform effort includes the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 with its emphasis on testing and school choice, the Race to the Top with its emphasis on tying student testing to teacher evaluation, and the adoption of the Common Core Standards.
The NCLB introduced most of the data driven accountability and management we are now experiencing all the way down the education ecosystem to the school level. The NCLB legislation “sought to close the achievement gap between the rich and the poor students by creating common curriculum standards, closing the so called failing schools, and introducing the public reporting of student test scores” (Spring, 2011, p 36). However, prior to the NCBL legislation, educators had some autonomy to choose instruction strategies for their classroom, to create meaningful lesson plans, and to design appropriate evaluations to test student knowledge and understanding. While teacher accountability may have been difficult to measure under the system prior to NCBL, I now feel, like Spring, that the current model of teaching consisting of “scripted lessons created by outside agency” and that teachers are increasingly forced to teach to the requirements of standardized tests is harmful to education and to the children of America receiving this education.
While discussing the principals and teachers’ opinions of walkthroughs I was struck by the differences in opinions between the two groups. Some teachers, on one hand believes that walkthroughs are an inauthentic exercise. They just “put on a show” during walkthroughs for the purpose of satisfying the evaluators. There is no a genuine interest in the process. Walkthroughs causes teachers to be nervous because walkthroughs are tied to teachers’ contractual obligation. On the other hand, principals feels as though walkthroughs are necessary: they provide feedback, enjoyable, and beneficial. In my opinion walkthroughs could be better if they were used to provide constructive feedback to the teachers on how to become better educators. In my experience, this has not been the case. Most times, walkthroughs are not accompanied by the feedback mechanism that is necessary to help teachers improve their crafts. Evaluators are only looking for what is missing (the negatives) rather than looking for what is present (the positives) during the observation.
The issue of professional development raised many interesting views and discussions as well. The views of my colleagues were that most professional development sessions are conducted just to fulfill schools or district-wide mandates (requirements). There is a huge amount of repetitions on the topics, lack of choice is the norm, and they infringe on teachers’ planning time. This is because most professional development sessions happens during the teachers’ planning periods and after regular school hours. My colleagues and I would welcome diverse professional learning opportunities where teachers would have a choice on what sessions to attend based on personally identified professional development needs.
In addition to our discussions in class, I conducted an interview with my principal to learn more about the process of recruiting a new principal and also the training that administrators receive to conduct LKES and TKES walkthroughs (the interview transcripts are attached on the back of this reflection). I learned from the interview that the training that administrators receive takes only three days. It is more like an orientation rather than a training. During this so called training, administrators are familiarized with the check-list, what to look for during walkthroughs, and how to report the results of a walkthrough on a computer. I believe this is not enough time for a major task such as this. A task that can determine a teachers’ likelihood of receiving next years’ contract or not, requires more rigorous training than what is happening at the moment. I would like for the training to train administrators to look for more than what happening in the class at that particular time and the 10 minutes that the administrator spends in a class. I believe, administrators should spend more time in class, visit more often, and share ideas on how to improve instruction.
The process of recruiting a principal in the Dekalb County Schools System is very different from one school to the next. In most schools, a principal is normally assigned to a school without local inputs. At Dunwoody High School, the process involves a four-prong process. It involves the members of the community, some members of the school staff, students, and the county hiring process. I like the process at Dunwoody High School as it involves the majority of the schools’ stakeholders. It is more democratic. Dunwoody High School, unlike other schools in the county where a principal is assigned to school, the community, the students’ body, and school staffs are all involved in selecting the incoming principal.
To conclude, in my capacity as an instructional leader, I will work hard to influence those around me on better ways to provide professional development for teachers and administrators. I feel like the current model of one size fits all is not working. I will advocate for diverse professional development training for teachers. Professional development trainings that cater to teachers’ identified needs for development. I believe that with the amount of knowledge I have acquired in the past two years in this program, I am able to influence the micro level decisions on professional development training at my school. I see myself growing further as an educational leader on these issues. I believe through authentic advocacy based on teachers’ identified needs for development, we will be able to improve professional development experiences for teachers. As they say, we can’t keep doing the same things over and over expecting different results.
Anderson, G. L. (2009). Advocacy leadership: Towards a post-reform agenda in education. New York, NY: Routledge.
Ravitch, D. (2009). Time to ‘kill No Child Left Behind’. Educational Week, 28(33), 30-36.
Spring, J. (2001). The politics of American education. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.