Districts Depend on Principal Improvement, Too

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While teacher improvement gets far more attention than principal improvement, both discussions have overlapping topics like best practices for induction, staffing, and how to deal with poor performers. Though indirect, principals have a large effect on student learning through how they match teachers and students and support teachers to work together and improve professionally. A good principal can also attract and retain talented teachers.

Milwaukee (Wisc.) Public Schools (MPS) is facing faces several challenges in filling principal vacancies in the district: decreased enrollment has likewise decreased funding, some managers are resistant to the influence of outside groups like New Leaders for New Schools, and induction and ongoing professional development programs for principals are insufficient.

The stakes are high for improving the principalship, but often, the support is low. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, “In MPS, a growing number of smaller elementary schools have part-time principals. More than 20 assistant principal jobs were eliminated in the last year.”

These cutbacks come at a time when principals are expected to play a larger role in instructional leadership—for example, modeling and observing lessons—on top of all their other building management and administrative tasks.

Milwaukee, like many other districts, is seeking an answer to the question: how can we develop and keep good principals?