2015: The Year of Instructional Leadership

Trends in education are moving in a single direction that may surprise you. Our prediction:

2015 will be the year of instructional leadership.

In recent years, the Common Core and teacher evaluations have dominated public education discourse. Standardized testing, value-added models, and complicated summative ratings continue to command our attention. Right or wrong, this is the world in which we live.

We speak to districts across the country every day, often about teacher evaluation specifically. Whatever the size and demographics, every district faces these pressures. In some cases, state-mandated teacher evaluation is a problem that has to be solved in a way that minimizes its impact on the otherwise productive instructional leadership and professional growth activities going on in a district. In other cases, it is something that can be leveraged to inform those activities.

Whatever its impact, teacher evaluation is near-universally regarded by school districts as a means to an end—never as an end in itself. Instead, all districts have a different end in common: providing ongoing professional growth opportunities for teachers who can, in turn, better educate our students.

If teacher evaluation itself is not the means to better teachers and higher-performing students, what is?

More and more, the education community seems to be settling on a single answer: instructional leadership. Consider the Wallace Foundation’s research. In examining their data, “A particularly noteworthy finding is the empirical link between school leadership and improved student achievement.” This link between leadership and student achievement motivated Wallace to recommend a shift in the role of principal.

This shift brings with it dramatic changes in what public education needs from principals. They can no longer function simply as building managers, tasked with adhering to district rules, carrying out regulations and avoiding mistakes. They have to be (or become) leaders of learning who can develop a team delivering effective instruction. Source

The Center for Educational Leadership agrees, describing instructional leadership, simply, as “the key to improving teaching and learning.” Source

A few years ago, Arne Duncan expressed a genuine commitment to supporting instructional leadership from the top. In a 2010 interview, he said,

Nothing is more important [than instructional leadership]. There’s no such thing as a high-performing school without a great principal. It is impossible. You simply can’t overstate their importance in driving student achievement, in attracting and retaining great talent to the school.

I’ve said repeatedly that there are many areas where the Department of Education has been part of the problem. One area is a huge underinvestment in principal leadership. That’s why we’re asking for a fivefold increase in funding to support principals and principal development. That, by far, is our biggest “ask” from Congress. Principal leadership is so critically important, and we want to support principals as they grow and develop. We want to do everything we can to help those great leaders at the local level make a difference in their communities.

These sentiments led to the School Leadership Program and various SEED grants, contributing tens of millions of dollars to principals’ growth into strong instructional leaders.

But there is more to be done. Just as nonprofits, governments, educators, professional development providers, and the business community are working to support teachers directly through content generation, workshops, conferences, and more, these same forces are in the process of aligning to support our instructional leaders.

We at TeachBoost have thrown our hat into the ring as the first technology dedicated to this problem: the first instructional leadership digital platform.

We hope to see others dedicate themselves in the way that our friends at Wallace, CEL, and our partner the Principal Center have done.

Instructional leadership is the linchpin of raising student achievement. It deserves our undivided attention. We think it can happen in 2015, and we’re going to do our part to help districts get there. 

Topics: Education

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