With the advent of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders and the intensive research conducted by The Wallace Foundation, the education community has a much clearer notion of a principal’s priorities and areas of focus. That clarity is welcome. It helps principals articulate why they spend their time on task A rather than task B, and it helps them resist the “crisis junkie” temptation that typified the principalship for many years.
But that clarity does not make more hours in the day. Vanderbilt University researcher and associate professor Jason Grissom and his colleagues, for instance, recently studied the impact on principals of new teacher evaluations. To their credit, principals highlighted the value of multiple-measure evaluations, complete with evidence of performance. These evaluations lead to high-impact conversations about instruction and help teachers become better, which principals recognize as their primary role. But even for the majority of principals who said the more intensive evaluations were good for their schools, managing the time the evaluations take to complete is a major challenge.
“The expectations for doing all of this new work happened very quickly, and districts didn’t necessarily think ‘what can we do to help make space for principals? What can we take off their plate?’” Grissom commented to Education Week. “I think that was a big frustration for a lot of principals.”
We can’t lose sight of Grissom’s question. While time management is by no means a new challenge for principals, a more carefully defined role makes the opportunity costs clear. To paraphrase my own comments to Education Week, every incidence of a principal lining the football field or shuffling compliance paperwork is time not spent on cultivating culture, improving instruction, or building teacher leadership. Fortunately, effective models exist, including the school administration manager model The Wallace Foundation pioneered several years ago. During 2019, NASSP will keep an eye out for other effective models for freeing up a principal’s time to focus on the tasks where you have the greatest impact.
As always, thank you for all your work to build the future we all share.
Executive Director, NASSP