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Qualities of Effective Principals

by James H. Stronge, Holly B. Richard and Nancy Catano

Table of Contents

An ASCD Study Guide for Qualities of Effective Principals

This ASCD study guide is designed to enrich your understanding of Qualities of Effective Principals, an ASCD book published in 2008. Qualities of Effective Principals offers a comprehensive and extensive treatment of research related to what constitutes an effective principalship. Additionally, it provides research-based practices designed to enable principals and other building-level school administrators to develop their leadership skills in an ongoing and sustainable manner. Instrumental to getting the maximum benefit from reading the book is to apply your own experiences to the issues explored in the book. While reading the attributes, skills, and behaviors in each chapter, you might consider reflecting on an effective principal who has affected your leadership belief and practices. If you are a principal, you might look at your own leadership behaviors to see if you have created conditions in your school that are conductive to effective teaching and learning.

Part I of Qualities of Effective Principals identifies qualities of effective leadership within eight categories, with each quality supported by a synthesis of research and related literature. Part II provides checklists to assess strengths and weaknesses of a principal's skills, lists key quality indicators to look for in effective principal practices, as well as red flags for indentifying inappropriate or ineffective principal performance. Finally, the book includes an annotated bibliography of carefully selected sources for the reader interested in more detailed information from various studies described in the book.

Drawing from empirical research, case studies, and a meta-review of principal effectiveness in the extant literature, the authors present a multifaceted view of the effective principalship with clarity and precision, which can be used as a reference and reminder to further leadership development. The questions provided in this study guide are designed for reflection, either on your own or with a colleague. Once you finish Part I of the book, the toolkit provided in Part II promotes the application of your understanding about the effective principalship. We hope that this guide provides a link between research and best practice with your own experience.

Part I: What It Means to Be An Effective Principal

Chapter 1: Instructional Leadership

  1. How might you deepen your understanding of the teaching and learning process?
  2. What actions should be taken to clarify student learning goals and communicate them to students, teachers, and other constituents? How do you build a commitment for schoolwide student learning gains and making school goals a reality?
  3. What should be done to determine whether a teacher's instruction is effective or not? What kind of support and resources is needed to help teachers grow professionally?
  4. How will you know whether learners are making satisfactory progress? What should student success look like? What criteria do you use to render judgments about learning success? What assessment tools and techniques do you use to gather data about student learning? How do you link student assessment results to teachers' classroom practices?
  5. To what degree do you think the leadership in your schools is shared? What can be done to encourage teachers to take a leadership role? What challenges have you encountered in the process of distributing power and building leadership capacity in your school?

Chapter 2: School Climate: The Heart of the School

  1. What adjectives would you use to describe the learning climate in your school and district?
  2. What is your understanding about what constitutes a learning community? What can you do to engage important stakeholders in building an environment for teachers and students that provides a rich learning environment?
  3. To what degree do teachers, parents, and other stakeholders have access to opportunities to be meaningfully involved in decision making?
  4. Successful school climate is characterized by shared values, beliefs, and mutual trust among members. What is needed to nurture and sustain such a school climate?

Chapter 3: Human Resource Administration: Selecting, Supporting, and Retaining Quality Teachers and Staff

  1. What factors in your school and district contribute to teacher recruitment and retention? And, conversely, what factors lead to teacher attrition?
  2. What variables should be taken into consideration while selecting the right employees? Consider factors such as teacher academic ability, certification status, degrees, knowledge in content and pedagogy, and teaching experience and decide what role they should play in teacher selection.
  3. What interviewing practices should be adopted to gain adequate information to make quality hiring decisions?
  4. What professional development opportunities does your school or district provide? What strengths and weaknesses in your professional development program can you identify? How could you use professional development as a teacher retention strategy?

Chapter 4: Teacher Evaluation: Assessing Instructional Quality

  1. What teacher evaluation model has been adopted in your school or district? How do you perceive the teacher evaluation processes and consequences?
  2. Evaluate the teacher evaluation program in your school or district based on the four standards proposed by the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation: propriety standards, utility standards, feasibility standards, and accuracy standards. Does your current teacher evaluation system satisfy each of these standards?
  3. What should be the principal's role in the process of teacher evaluation?
  4. What are potential resources for conducting accurate and comprehensive evaluations of teachers?
  5. What strategies can you propose to link teacher evaluation to student achievement? What are the pros and cons of making a connection between teacher success and student success?
  6. To what degree are you equipped with knowledge to make the teacher evaluation process in your school or district legally sound? How would your balance teacher due processes rights with institutional interests of quality instruction when a tenured teacher fails to meet expectations?

Chapter 5: Organizational Management: Building a Foundation for Teaching and Learning

  1. To what extent can you make sound decisions in allocating human, fiscal, technological, and physical resources to maximize student learning?
  2. What actions can be taken to increase the productivity or economic efficiency of schools?
  3. What do you think about the impact of technology on student learning? What are your suggestions for teachers to integrate technology in their classroom instruction?
  4. Are the leaders in your school or district acting entrepreneurially in increasing revenue and budgeting?

Chapter 6: Communication and Community Relations: Working with Internal and External Constituencies

  1. Is the communication climate in your school or district relatively open or closed? How available are you to others within and without your school or district? Are you visible?
  2. Are you a good listener? Can you identify inappropriate listening habits and identify techniques to address them?
  3. What communication techniques do you use to increase collaboration among organizational members to meet the school's goals?
  4. Reflect on a communication barrier that exists when reaching out to parents and families, especially those families who are isolated socioeconomically and linguistically. How can this barrier be removed or minimized?
  5. What communication channels does your school or district use to reach the greater school community?
  6. Reflect on the message that has been delivered to the community through those channels. Does this message have a focus on student learning?

Chapter 7: Professionalism and the Principal: Making a Contribution to the Educational Community

  1. What qualifications and training are needed to make an effective principal?
  2. ISLLC identifies instructional leadership as the core of the profession, a position that is widely accepted. How can a principal fulfill the important responsibility of instructional leadership?
  3. In addition to instructional leadership, what other functions of the principalship should be recognized? What moral and ethical responsibilities does a principal have?
  4. What are your career goals and how can you accomplish them?

Chapter 8: The Ultimate Challenge: The Principal's Role in Student Achievement

  1. Although there may be somewhat limited face-to-face interaction between principals and students, in what ways do principals exert indirect but significant influence on student learning? How can you use your legitimate power and expertise to influence the variables that have a direct impact on the teaching and learning process?
  2. How can you establish a solid and clearly communicated framework of learning goals across classrooms and throughout the school? How can you work collaboratively with teachers and students in setting challenging but attainable goals, developing strategies to achieve those goals, and monitoring student progress toward those goals through ongoing and frequent data collection?
  3. How might you help teachers use student learning data to improve classroom practices and make informed instructional decision making?

Part II: Principal Effectiveness—Tools You Can Use

This section of the Qualities of Effective Principals provides tools that were developed for direct application of the content and concepts presented in Part I. The checklists are presented in a straightforward and compact format to help identify key indicators of effectiveness in a principal's leadership. Additionally, the quality indicators and red flags are intended to highlight behaviors that can positively impact and improve principal performance. These tools can be used as a self-assessment instrument by principals for continued development as well as tools for supervisors who evaluate principals.

Section 1: Principal Skills Assessment Checklists

  1. Principals might self-reflect as they complete the checklists as a self-assessment.
  2. Teachers in the school could be invited to complete selected aspects of the checklists to offer insight into how the principal's practices are perceived.
  3. Administrators who supervise and evaluate principals and assistant principals may use the checklists to provide feedback on particular aspects of principal effectiveness.
  4. Staff development specialists might use the checklists to reflect with principals about their performance and use the checklists to design and deliver professional development opportunities toward leadership growth.
  5. Human resource specialists might use the checklists as the rubrics for recruiting and selecting quality principals.

Section 2: Principal Quality Indicators and Red Flags

  1. Principals can use the eight qualities as a means to focus on their analytic and reflective practice. The qualities can be especially useful when principals are trying to improve a specific skills or behaviors.
  2. Novice principals or aspiring principals can use the quality indicators and red flags to determine behaviors to consider when observing a mentor.
  3. The quality indicators and red flags also can be helpful for administrators who need to evaluate and document principal performance.

Section 3: Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography is provided for readers who are interested in knowing more about particular issues related to principal effectiveness. The annotations provide additional details on selected research referenced and discussed in the book. The annotation matrix makes it simple to cross-reference literature resources with the qualities described in various chapters of the book. Additionally, the annotations are presented in a standard format to make the literature information more user-friendly. If you want or need more information, we suggest that you obtain a copy of the original work.

Qualities of Effective Principals was written by James H. Stronge, Holly B. Richard, and Nancy Catano. This 260-page, 7" x 9" book (Stock #108003; ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-0744-1) is available from ASCD for $22.95 (ASCD member) or $29.95 (nonmember). Copyright © 2008 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.


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