A study to be released this week suggests that improving school leadership is a problem all over the world, not just in the United States.
The 22-nation study, conducted by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, found that the roles and responsibilities of school leaders have broadened considerably over the past decades. At the same time, the workforce of principals in many countries is approaching retirement, and the majority of the countries surveyed reported difficulties in finding enough suitable candidates.
A summary of the report, “Improving School Leadership: Policies and Practices”, was due to be released at an April 14-15 conference on the subject in Copenhagen, sponsored by the OECD and the Danish Ministry of Education. The full report will be released in June.
It identifies four main policy levers that countries can use to improve the effectiveness of school leaders.
Many countries, he found, need to clarify the essential roles and responsibilities of principals in order to provide a more solid foundation for recruitment, training and assessment efforts.
At the same time, they should consider distributing leadership tasks beyond the head of the school. The report cites a growing body of research that suggests that learning improves when teachers and others take on formal and informal leadership responsibilities.
The United States did not participate in the study.
The study calls for better professional development of current school leaders and better preparation of future school leaders. In many countries, he notes, the only requirement for becoming a school principal is teaching experience. Yet teaching does not ensure that individuals have the knowledge and skills to run a learning-centered school, especially in today’s environment of accountability, he says.
“Ensuring that managers and those involved in leadership receive adequate training and preparation to develop the right skills is crucial for effective leadership,” the report states. Such training, he says, should be provided along a continuum, from initial preparation to ongoing training and support.
The study also found that countries should do more to make school leadership an attractive career.
In all participating countries, it was found that negative images of employment, insufficient wages compared to responsibilities and insufficient attention to recruitment and succession planning discouraged people from entering the profession.
“In many countries,” he says, “the expectations and demands on school leaders have steadily increased, but the corresponding supports and incentives have not always been aligned with the new demands.
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The good news, according to the study, is that the relatively small size of the core workforce, compared to the teaching profession, helps tackle such issues.
“Developing the workforce of school principals promises to be a very profitable investment in human capital,” he says, “because quality leadership can directly influence the motivations, attitudes and behaviors of students. teachers and indirectly contribute to improving the learning of millions of children. . The fact that such a small group of people can potentially have an impact on every student and teacher in the country makes principals a key policy lever for improving education.
Michael Fullan, professor emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and special education advisor to the Premier of Ontario, praised the report for addressing such a central topic and “having does a very thorough job, well anchored in the literature and practical.
He said school principals must “lead the way” in developing a culture of collaboration among teachers that focuses on “continuous and relentless improvement in teaching”.
The study is based on baseline reports provided by each participating country using a common framework and on a small number of case studies. Participants included Australia, Finland, France, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom.