Teachers Today, Principals Tomorrow
Teachers are trained to teach. They don’t always have comparable skills in management and leadership.
Thanks to a growing New Orleans-based organization, that’s changing.
Leading Educators is filling in a gap aimed at making teachers more effective in the classroom and more equipped to manage others and win promotions to vice principal and principal.
“The idea is like the way a football team is run, where the defensive coordinator develops the skills to run the whole team,” said Jonas Chartock, the chief executive officer of Leading Educators and the former executive director of the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York, the nation’s largest university based charter school authorizer.
“Our program distributes management responsibilities to teachers who have those skills. The more effective leadership they show, the wider the population there is for promotion.”
The Leading Educators fellowship program is addressing one of the major reasons cited for the inability of the nation’s public education systems to improve student achievement rates, especially those in densely-populated urban districts: Short of returning to college for an advanced degree, teachers have limited access to professional development that provides a clear pathway toward promotion and a longer career.
Add to that waning financial support for public schools, growing class size and classroom achievement measured only by the outcome of annual tests, and teachers often find their idealism, energy and enthusiasm worn away, causing many to leave the profession after only a few years.
That’s where middle management training steps in, offering new leadership skills, a bridge to advancement and potential for higher salaries.
Funded in part by the Gates Foundation, the NewSchools (cq) Venture Fund and the UK-based Absolute Return for Kids, Leading Educators started with a program in New Orleans that will have graduated 38 teacher-leaders by the end of this, its third academic year. A second program began this year in Kansas City, Missouri, and plans are underway to add eight more regions by 2016.
“We’re targeting the biggest cities in the United States,” Chartock said. “That includes New York and Newark, Chicago and the west coast.”
The fellowship program lasts two years, with a goal of developing expertise in three major areas: leadership and management, “the bread and butter of the organization,” said Chartock; cultural leadership, which builds relationships within the school community; and instructional leadership, which teaches how to coach colleagues to become better teachers.
The course includes one-on-one leadership coaching, collaborations on projects designed to increase student achievement, site visits to high-performing institutions and periodic evaluations from other fellows, principals and leadership coaches.
So far, the program has proved enormously attractive. Chartock said the organization is receiving four applications for every slot filled, which enables the program to pick teachers who have the best chance of maximizing the opportunity.
“We address the retention of great people,” Chartock said. “That way, we can build the pool of leaders who rise to management roles. Middle management is sorely missing in American schools, and we’re a middle management training organization. What we do enables teachers to go further in their careers, building a pool of principals for tomorrow.”
Not to mention, building a pool of more effective teachers for today.