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June 1, 2016


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Research Alert

It Takes a Team

Having a transformational leader at the helm of a school is great—but it's not enough. To achieve deep change, we need distributed leadership: a cadre of talented educational leaders in each building, all of whom feel responsible for the development of the teachers on their teams.

That's the assertion of a recent study that surveyed more than 4,200 teachers and administrators in school systems of varying sizes throughout the United States. The study found that in most schools, the bulk of instructional leadership responsibilities still rests with the principal. In fact, 96 percent of surveyed principals said they are "responsible for the performance and growth" of their teachers.

Principals' instructional leadership burden can be overwhelming. The average principal in the study was directly responsible for managing 47 people (37 teachers and 10 non-instructional staff)—compared with an average of five people for the average manager of highly-skilled professionals like accountants and 15 people for less skilled employees, such as call-center workers.

Although schools have rapidly increased their numbers of instructional coaches, mentors, PLC leaders, and so on, the study found that districts rarely design these roles with a vision of how these "teacher leaders" will work together to support the school's overall mission. More often, these teachers are expected to act as facilitators. What's needed, says the study, is a "leadership model that distributes primary responsibility for developing instructional excellence among a team of skilled, empowered educators who have the time and authority to work closely with teachers on a day-to-day basis" (p. 3).

The report profiles 12 school systems that are experimenting with this kind of distributed leadership, including the Denver, Colorado, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, school districts and the Green Dot and KIPP charter models.

For more information, read Transforming Schools: How Distributed Leadership Can Create More High-Performing Schools.

Online Only

A Twitter Chat for Change Agents

Join us at 8 p.m. EST on Tuesday, July 5 for ASCD's monthly Leader to Leader Twitter chat. The topic of July's chat will be on the theme of this Educational Leadership issue—how to be a change agent. Come prepared to share your thoughts and experiences about being an agent of change for your students, school, or the education community at large. Use #ASCDL2L to join the conversation.

Relevant Reads

What do change agents in schools and entrepreneurs at Silicon Valley startups have in common? They're what Adam Grant calls originals. "Originality starts with creativity: generating a concept that is both novel and useful. But it doesn't stop there. Originals are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality," he writes.

Grant explains how originals bring their ideas to life and offers advice for how to manage that process, including how to manage risk, recognize original ideas when you see them, make your voice heard, decide when to make your first move, form coalitions, and, as one chapter is titled, "rock the boat and keep it steady" at the same time. Grant grounds his advice in research without getting bogged down in it and provides plenty of examples of originals from all walks of life.

He also addresses the next generation of change agents—the ones sitting in our classrooms. Surprisingly, he says that child prodigies do not often grow up to be originals: "As they perform in Carnegie Hall, win the science Olympics, and become chess champions, something tragic happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn't make new." So as we allow ourselves to challenge the status quo and step outside the lines, how might our students benefit from these same opportunities? Grant advocates that instead of insisting that students conform to rules of established games, we should encourage them to devise their own games. In doing so, both teacher and student will learn an important lesson: "Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice." Reading this book is a good first step in making that choice.

Numbers of Note

Duties of Teacher Leaders

According to a survey of more than 4,000 teachers, assistant principals, and principals, the top five activities teacher leaders are responsible for:

  • 84% facilitate teacher collaboration

  • 35% observe and provide feedback

  • 33% provide instructional coaching

  • 27% deliver professional development

  • 10% give input on evaluations

66% of these teacher leaders receive neither a stipend nor release time for this work

<ATTRIB> Source: Bain &amp; Company's Transforming Schools: How DistributedLeadership Can Create More High-Performing Schools. </ATTRIB>

Screen Grabs

Leadership and Love

"Miss, why do you keep calling this a school? This is not a school!" That's the question a student called out from the back of the auditorium, interrupting Linda Cliatt-Wayman's first speech as principal of Strawberry Mansion High School in North Philadelphia. Although the outburst was unwelcome, Cliatt-Wayman knew that it was true. Strawberry Mansion, which had been labeled "low-performing and persistently dangerous," was more like a battleground than a school. In this emotional TED talk, Cliatt-Wayman describes her fierce struggles to transform Strawberry Mansion into a place where students felt safe, loved, and challenged. Viewers are sure to gain inspiration from a principal who closes each morning's schoolwide announcements by saying, "If nobody told you they love you today, remember I do, and I always will."


"In my mind, only a teacher can do the kinds of advocacy we are called to do." —Shanna Peeples

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