Friday, October 10, 2014
Principal Quality Is The Fatal Flaw In The New York City Public Schools.
I grew up and was educated in the New York City public schools and eventually became a public school teacher. During my days as a student and the beginning of my teaching career, the one constant was that the Principal was a long-term classroom teacher and generally respected for their experience and understanding of the classroom issues.
While not all these principals were great leaders, they were knowledgeable and had an institutional memory of how things worked. Principals were expected to slowly rise up through the teaching ranks, become an Assistant Principal and maybe after a minimum of ten years gets a shot at being the school leader. However, things changed for the worst when Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed a non-educator as Chancellor and the Chancellor. The Chancellor, Joel Klein, in-turn founded the infamous "Leadership Academy".
The "Leadership Academy" accepted potential administrators with a minimum of three years of experience in the education field and no classroom experience was required. The result was that many of the newly minted "Leadership Academy" principals were not even tenured teachers! The Bloomberg/Klein philosophy was that schools could be better run as a business and principals were the "Chief Operating Officers" of their schools and long-term education credentials were not necessary to be a Principal. The Bloomberg Administration closed over 164 schools and replacing them with 634 new schools, all needing principals. The result was that many of the new "Bloomberg small schools" ending up with these "Leadership Academy" principals that presently make up approximately 20% of all New York City principals.
One of the biggest problems with the "Leadership Academy" principals is that they are trained to be top down managers rather the collaborative leaders. Many of these "Leadership Academy" principals hire inexpensive and untenured teachers and will not hire highly experienced teachers due to both their higher salary and more importantly, their institutional memory on how successful schools are run. For the "Leadership Academy" principal its about the school report card and constant test prep than what's best for the academic achievement of the students.
If the quality of principals doesn't improve and the current Chancellor leaves the "Leadership Academy" principles in place, then don't look for any real academic improvements despite the rhetoric coming out of the DOE. The schools are only as good as their leader and in too many cases the leader is from the "Leadership Academy" and that's not encouraging for student academic outcomes.