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Principal Re-Evaluation

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“Developing Excellent School Principals to Advance Teaching and Learning: Considerations for State Policy” by Paul Manna is a complex and extensive study that explains one main concept: “how states can ensure schools have principals who advance teaching and learning.” Currently in America, principals’ roles are vital but rarely recognized, and unfortunately overlooked by policy makers in state policy. Manna offers policy solutions meant to solve this issue and to ensure that principals’ status and work can improve dramatically.

First, Manna suggests we need to “assess state and local contexts” since each state runs very differently. We need to recognize these differences to satisfy the individual needs of each district, school, and family. The research on differences in demographics can “help inform state policy decisions designed to improve local practice,” and thus recruit principals depending on differing needs of students.

Next, once we assess state and local context, Manna says we need to identify particular policies that will bring about positive change: leadership standards, recruitment policies, training and development, and evaluations. In regard to evaluations, the National Conference of State Legislatures has found that 36 states demand principal evaluations. These states, however, have limited experience implementing principal evaluations and “much remains to be learned” according to Manna. In fact, he recommends that states remain flexible in implementation as best practices are identified and states can learn from one another.

Once these best practices are known, principal standards can be made, training programs can be more effective, and most importantly, principal evaluations and accountability can become a priority.

Currently, teachers receive two to four times more attention than principals do. Teachers have a significant impact on a child’s education, however principals are meant to guide teachers, so if principals are a low priority on state agendas, there may be negative consequences for teachers. Manna suggests we need to advocate for legislators to re-evaluate their education policy agendas.

I feel principals are the leading force in a school. If a principal is active and passionate, teachers’ actions will follow. This is definitely is not as simple as it sounds, however. I have heard of instances where a principal is undoubtedly trying to better the school but teachers are not participating. If teachers are not great, the students will have no motivation. Although it is a bit of a complex situation, the principal is the head of the school, and I believe they should have the power to fire inadequate staff members and hire exceptional teachers.

Gianna Manzella, CER Intern

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