A good principal educates children to become functioning citizens while paying enough tribute to the politicians' latest fad to keep her job. And she treats children as if they're human beings while she's at it Good job Maria Velez-Clarke.
In an On Education column, Michael Winerip attempted to answer the question: What makes a good principal?
Showing the way through her words and actions was Jacqui Getz, the principal of Public School 126 in Chinatown. She protected her teachers and was comfortable in front of students in a variety of settings.
Readers have been adding some attributes of their own:
"A principal should continue to teach at least one class. Too many administrators are failed teachers; a principal who continues to teach maintains her credibility. (I speak from experience.)" -- Gabriella, Brooklyn
"This was wonderful to read. Surely New York City is full of such principals.
A few points:
1. A principal should have taught for a number of years, should be proud of those teaching years and should remember what it is like to be in the classroom.
2. A principal is "principal teacher" and as such should mentor the staff.
3. Professionals have unreimmbursed expenses: if the standard issue doesn't cut it, then you dig into your pocket." -- Jack, Buffalo
"It's telling that this was absent from the list: 'A good principal gets results.' " --Brian, Santa Barbara
What do you think are the attributes of a good principal? Join the conversation.
Good principals are strong enough to take questions from parents in a public forum on a regular basis. Beware the principal who tells parents to meet with her individually in the office if you want to discuss any topic of significance beyond the weather.
....good students (by good student I don't necessarily mean academically good but socially good namely willing to become part of the school community and not emotionaly handicapped or stuff like that. But do you think for one second that the fact that results are much better on the Algebra regents at the Bronxs High School of Science are much better than say at Dewitt Clinton has one thing to do with the Principal or the teachers or other adultsd or everything to do with the kids that go to the two schools despite the fact they are located one block apart!
Yogi Berra was once asked what makes a good manager in baseball. He thought for a second and said, "Good ballplayers." What makes a good school? Good kids, period.
Thank you Eric for such great advice and always being an insightful teacher. You have been a tremendous influence on my professional growth and learning.
I look forward to reading more of your columns.
All the best,
M. Ali Shama,
Francis Lewis High School
I think a critical component of effective leadership is the ability to "walk the talk". The term "transformational leader" may seem somewhat cliched, but I believe that is the sort of leader that is needed in schools of today. Effective leaders need to be able to inspire leadership in others. They need to be able to work collectively with all stakeholders, but be able to make the final decision when that is called for. Above all, the effective leader must be trustworthy. Tschannen-Moran (2004)claimed that trustworthy leadership is critical for school success. Without trust educational leaders need to devote too much time and energy in defending their actions; and that time and energy takes away from the productive work of schools. More than ever school leaders need to work with the school stakeholders for the betterment of their students.
Tschannen-Moran, M. (2004). Trust matters: Leadership for successful schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Fire half the vice-principals or assistant principals or any other hyphenated middle management types, then pricipals will be forced to delegate responsibilities to the rank and file. These vice/assistant types usually add equate to 2 or 3 teacher salaries, as well. If a person isn't directly adding to the value of classroom instruction they should be candidates for redundancy.
Where I teach, assistant principals are much more than "middle management" types. In fact, they are very strong instructional leaders who are closely connected to staff and students, providing staff development in their buildings. I'd say that adds significant value to classroom instruction.
I wonder if the wider community would agree that the DOE always values the shared leadership model you elegantly argue for. While you say that they shared leadership with people who reported to them, did they share leadership with people who did not agree with them. THe PEP is widely seen as a rubber stamp, many people feel that the school closing process lacks community engagement. Can you give us some examples of where our top leadership had their ideas changed from below by people who actively disagreed?
Half right, Mr. Nadelstern. Good principals are held accountable (and for many things in addition to test results). Good principals are given standards to meet and rewarded or punished accordingly: Did you provide the mandated amount of gym and library for all students? Did you provide adequate recess, rest and lunch time for all students? These days, principals have learned that they can run amok and ride roughshod over children's developmental and emotional needs as long as everyone makes their test numbers.
Highly effective principals were highly effective teachers. Under this Mayor far too many principals have never proven them selves in the classroom, thus they have very little empathy for the tremendous amount of expertise necessary to be an effective educator. Mayoral control of schools politicizes education. Injecting politics into something as important as molding the minds of our youth is a very dangerous thing. The one size fits all, business model of this Mayor has proven disasterous to the at risk students I work with. They are students who have shown us that they will not succeed under the traditional methods of education and discipline, yet I am reprimanded by administrators when I try to go against the model. This time next year everything may change with the election of a new Mayor, is that good?
I'll answer the question with a question. What makes a good baseball manager? First and foremost -- good players, and then knowing how to support them so that they can achieve their maximum productivity.. The answer for principals is the same after you substitute the word "teachers" for "players". There is, of course much more to the job than that. The objectives of a school are far more complex than those of a baseball team. For me, arts education is the key. Show me a school in which a student can receive a high quality education in music, art, dance, and theater, and I'll show you a good school with a good principal.
H.S. for Violin and Dance
Unique talents of a school leader include being able to understand and be responsive to community inside and outside of the school. Creating an environment inclusive of as many services as possible that will enhance lives of students and adults. This complex task is enveloped with creating a clear vision with attainable goals and expectations. Students must be given opportunities to have enriching aducational experiences. Principals should be accountable school progress and student performance while guiding teachers in exemplary pedagogy. Principals should make certain that parents are a vital part of the school community.
I hope readers notice the powerful, dedicated, problem-solving, and knowledgable thinking of Principal Tyler and the dedicated involvement of her team of teachers and supportive collaborators. I have spent my whole career (now retired) working with struggling students, and as of 2010, I was able to work with at PS 277 through my employment by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project as Senior Reading Specialist.
I was shocked to hear that PS277 was given such a poor rating based on Standardized Test scores, because I saw this dedication and hard working team in place back then. Teachers were engaged in the staff development my colleagues. It was amazing to talk with teachers after a school day in the building, being told they already implemented new ideas gained and were thrilled with the response of their students. Principal Tyler was always there to support the needs of the school, yet finding time to participate in the staff development.
I am proud to read about how Principal Tyler and her staff have analyzed the excellent work they were already doing to grow new ideas about where to go next in providing the most for their children. The NYCBOE is to be commended on questioning the value of using Standardized Test scores as having "questionable value" in evaluating a school, its staff, and students, and their decision to give this school another chance before closing it.
A good principal provides a climate that encourages administration, teachers and students to succeed. They provide more than leadership to their staff but also trust, open conversation to explore ideas, and more importantly passion to help fuel the desire to thrive.
Did you know that in Minnesota, the union and the department of education worked together with the VIVA Project to get teachers' input on an important policy decision? It was very successful. The teachers wrote a policy report that contained 10 recommendations on how principals should be evaluated and presented it to Governor Dayton. If you'd like to know what teachers in Minnesota believe makes a good principal, take a look at their report: http://vivateachers.org/2012/... I think you'll find that teachers have a lot of insightful recommendations.
I've never believed it is an issue of good or bad teachers. Obviously, there will be differences in skill among any group of professionals. The issue is always the quality of the environment and the organization. A good principal can bring out the best in a teacher and that filters down to bringing out the best in the student. I've been an outspoken critic of homework policy, largely because it violates concepts of good organizational structures by placing too much authority into the hands of teachers, over the home. But in the same spirit, I'm critical of systems that try to micromanage the classroom with too many outside mandates, and the types of performance reviews which force people to watch their backs. The teacher needs to keep his or her eye on the student, not fend off criticism or get overly concerned about what happens in the home. And that gets supported best by having principals like the one featured here.
I beg to differ! I have dealt with teachers who had mental instability, or not in touch with the times, teachers who had hate issues, or poor teaching skills, etc. the list is long. I have come across principals who supported some of these teachers out of friendship and not professionality, and what does a good principal do when they come "bad" teachers??
Great principals believe that the problems of the school are their problems, and they never stop trying to solve them. If a student is having trouble learning, a successful principal knows it is her job to figure out why, and what it's causing the problem. Principals are responsible for taking corrective action when necessary. That's the bottom line!
I think it is all about rational hierarchies. The problem with the current frenzy over testing and teacher evaluations is that it can’t work because it breeches the natural order of things. The writer here is right that good principals recognize good teachers and that the evaluation process must respect that hierarchical structure. My reasons for supporting teachers against this public movement to put them under the gun does not differ in any way from my commitment to protect families from excessive homework sent down by the school. It’s all about hierarchies: principals in charge of the school, teachers in charge of the class, and parents in charge of the home. www.thehomeworktrap.com.
Although many of the answers are eloquent and on target, the most important attribute of a good principal is to put CHILDREN FIRST!
Virtually every decision should be based on "what is best for kids"?!
If this question is asked before every decision, the principal is well on their way to being superior.
After kids first, then the principal must support the staff. This doesn't mean to defend them when they make a mistake but to help all staff learn and grow.
Finally, they must be honest; to themselves, the parents, teachers and administration.
I really like what she (as a principal) writes about teachers needing support. This is so true. We teachers are often expected to wave our magic wand with a mixed ability classroom and get magical results with absolutely no support. The administration can't guarantee enough desks even. Parents are a strong influence in the students' motivation to learn.
A good principal is one who understands the problems the teacher faces in the classroom having taught for a number of years themselves.They work at helping their staff,always trying to find something to praise them about. They are fair and treat each member of their staff equally,not giving special privileges to some over others. They back their teachers up at all times and settle any problems in private,not in front of others. They are constantly aware of what is going on in their school,always walking into classrooms to support their teachers,not only to catch them doing something wrong.They make sure teachers who need mentoring receive it and make sure children who disrupt the learning process are handled immediately.They realize that education is much more then just test results and don't allow their schools to become test crazy.
Congratulations to the entire environment of the school. Principal, administration, teachers and students. Overcoming the obstacles put in place by the current system and making positive changes in the life of the students. Increasing guidance counselors and social workers as well as giving students a role in developing policies that are geared to encourage positive behaviors and empower students.This will keep the school off the failing list. Parents also need to be part of the equation. Parents must be informed of the school's policies as well as being part of the planning of the school. Positive news.
Vicki Zunitch - Did you just skim through this article and then decide do state your noble opinion? It's not that Mr. Gorsky can't take questions from the public...that is not why he calls in meetings with parents....The initial meeting with parents and student is an interview to get into the school. Mr. Gorsky does not let just anybody into the school. He evaluates the student's behavior and discussion and see's if the student would be a fit when considering the student body, and curriculum. I know this because I am a Concord graduate. My initial interview gave me a 1st impression of the school and I was very impressed with Mr. Gorsky and his obvious compassion for the school. For the 2 years that I was in Concord High School, I had a great and supported faculty that was and is unlike any other high school. With only about 150 students, if one is cutting, it is very noticeable. Things like fighting are not tolerated. If there was ever a physical fight when I was there, I didn't hear about it. This is because if it happened, it was resolved so quickly that it couldn't be rumored. The faculty at Concord cares and pays close attention to their students. To sit here and judge such a great school who does wonders for their students, in such a negative way is just terrible. You should be ashamed of yourself Vicki Zunitch...Now go find a hobby.
i like the idea of a principal having to still teach. When you look at college presidents most have had a long career as professors in various disciplines. I don't know why we shouldn't have the same expectations for our principals. I think one of the most important attributes a principal can have is finding and developing talented teachers. Here is a good article on developing some of that talent. What makes a good teacher
I'd love to hear what parents of children at this school think. The parents at schools I know that have had principals from Leadership Academy had been extremely unhappy. They have felt that the principals did not understand what it took to be an educator. After all, shouldn't a principal be a Master Teacher above all? In both instances, the parents organized and got the principals replaced by leaders with real teaching experience.
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