Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trust in Schools

One school condition that remains a strong predictor of student learning is trust in schools, and it appears that the school principal is the central figure in establishing this trust. One of my close friends and colleagues is studying the influence of the trust that exists between the principal and teachers, as well as between the principal and clients (parents and students), to influence school levels of achievement as part of his doctoral program at Rutgers University. As a member of his dissertation committee, I am anxiously awaiting some progress on this work so he can communicate his findings to practitioners, who might then further improve the levels of trust and, subsequently, student learning in schools.

While we await the findings from my colleague's work, I thought it was important to discuss some comments about organizational trust that I followed last night on the #leadfromwithin chat on Twitter. Many of the leaders who participated in this chat made some outstanding comments about the importance of trust, as well as strategies for cultivating and sustaining trust in different organizations. Although I'm not presenting much research evidence in this post, I think it's important to review some of the comments that key members of my PLN who are school leaders made during this chat. Please review the following Tweets by some outstanding educators and leadership development professionals:

As educators, I think it's important to keep these comments in mind as we continue through the 2012-2013 school year. Not only will a conscious effort to build and sustain trust help you develop stronger professional relationships with administrators, teachers, students, and parents to improve learning for all, but trust is also the foundation for most personal relationships.

Having read much of the school trust scholarly literature, one of the most important messages that I can convey is that sustaining trusting relationships to improve learning is difficult and requires a daily focus. Not only is this true in our professional relationships as educators, but also throughout relationships we have in our personal lives. As educators and individuals, I think it's important to remember that we must continue to make decisions that build on established levels of trust, otherwise, we can risk eroding relationships that may have taken months or years to develop.

I think the following Tweet provides a clear reminder about how quickly trust can fade:

Please share your thoughts on the importance of trust in sustaining satisfying and meaningful relationships in both your professional and personal roles.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Old School Ed. Admin.

I'm about eight student days into my new assignment, and I've been thinking a lot about what I like to call "Old School Ed. Admin." topics: including safety, order, & discipline. I like to refer to these topics as "Old School Ed. Admin.", because the early educational administration scholarly literature was dominated by research in this area. This type of work often fell under the umbrella of what was termed "Pupil Control Ideology", and this was the primary charge of principals as recently as three decades ago. Things have certainly changed since then, with principals becoming more involved with the technical core, teaching and learning, of daily school operations.

I've been thinking about this recently, because this is certainly an area in need of improvement for my current school, as well as an area that the faculty and staff members have made clear to me is a concern. We've revised some procedures that have improved order in the school already, and faculty and staff members have embraced a positive behaviors program that I fully support. Most importantly, our students seem to be following our lead and have done a terrific job in following our new procedures to create a more focused learning organization. This focus on safety, order, and discipline over the past week or so, however, has caused me to step back, reflect, and rethink the importance of principal leadership.

The evidence is clear that principals have the greatest influence on student learning in their schools through indirect means. A principal's influence on learning is indirect simply because he or she is not in the classroom teaching students, at least not on a regular basis. So, by improving school conditions, trusting faculty members to do what is best for their students, and leading to improve beliefs about their self and collective efficacy, principals help teachers help students learn more. This is what we should be doing on a regular basis, however, focusing on these indirect ways to improve student learning becomes more difficult if the daily routines and procedures that exist in a school don't cultivate a culture of safety, order, and discipline. So, we're working on creating a healthy school that has a climate that prioritizes some of these "Old School Ed. Admin." topics.

Please share your thoughts on the importance of improving learning conditions in your school from a Pupil Control Ideology perspective.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Change is Here...It's Going to be a Great Year

Tomorrow begins another school year for the faculty at our school, and it is the start of a new assignment for me. I look forward to working with this group of professionals as we collaborate to improve learning for all of our students. We will work hard everyday to ensure that all students learn on a daily basis, because they deserve nothing less than our best efforts. As we work to ensure that all students learn, we will also be preparing them for our state's accountability test, which remains a priority in our school district.

Our school district has undergone substantial change in the past few weeks, and as stated by our new Assistant Superintendent, no longer will our sole measure of student achievement be our state's accountability test. We will continue to make our state's test a priority, however, it will no longer be the only measure we use to evaluate our effectiveness. This is the good news that I've been hoping to receive for several years now. More importantly, utilizing additional measures of student achievement will allow our teachers to better engage our students to learn everyday. We can begin to abandon the drill and kill strategies that we grew accustomed to over the past decade as we focused solely on preparing our students for our state's accountability test.

I am most happy for our students with our school district's renewed focus, because as the evidence tells us, students learn best when they can collaborate, connect, and create with their peers. Utilizing multiple measures of student achievement will allow our teachers to get our students involved in more of these types of learning experiences, and I know we will watch our students' learning soar as a result.

Our school and district have undergone many changes, but I know it's going to be a great year.