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What It Takes to Be an Effective School Principal in a Broken Educational System

Mar 20, 2017 by

Ever since the surprise victory of now President Donald J. Trump, there has been a great deal of controversy as to whether or not our educational system is broken. It probably depends on whether you are reading left-leaning media or right-leaning media, but there are some indisputable facts that can’t be pinned on a presidential election.

As far back as the middle of August in 2015, just months after Trump jumped into the race for the Republican nomination to run, Education Week, a well-respected publication was listing the reasons why the “U.S. Education System Is Failing.” Perhaps ‘failing and ‘broken’ are not always synonymous, but in this case, it appears as if they are.

Now that it is understood that this is not a controversy following party lines of a much disputed election, it’s time to look at just why the system is said to be broken and what it takes to be an effective school principal during these troubled times in the history of the educational system in the United States of America.

A Few of the Reasons Why Matthew Lynch Feels Our System Is Failing

As the author of the above cited article in Education Week, Matthew Lynch lists 10 reasons why he feels our system is failing – most especially, failing our children. In order, they are as follows:

  1. Lack of parental involvement.
  2. Inordinate number of schools closing.
  3. Overcrowding of schools still in existence.
  4. The downside of technology.
  5. Gifted education not diversified enough.
  6. A stagnant school spending budget.
  7. Lack of innovation for teachers to become educated over changing times.
  8. Of 80% high school graduates, less than half ready for the next stage in life.
  9. Too many students being lost to continuing their education in prison.
  10. A national gender gap resulting in a push to encourage women to pursue STEM.

Of those, the only two which are probably not self-apparent would be numbers 9 and 10. What number 9 is stating is the fact that in urban areas of the country, a growing number of young people, especially young black males, are going to prison prior to high school graduation or as dropouts. Of these, few are pursuing the education available to them in prison. As for number 10, STEM is simply the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Men are much more apt to seek degrees in these areas which is leaving a hole in the number of professionals needed in those fields.

So What Are the Characteristics of an Effective School Principal?

First, and foremost, a principal should be a better-than-average leader. In fact, a principal should be the epitome of what it means to be a leader. Not only will the school’s principal be a shining light, an example to the teachers and staff within that educational institution, but the principal must be an example to the students in his or her charge. An effective school principal, then, should be above all a good leader – no, a great leader.

This is why more and more universities are focusing on this aspect of administration with Master’s work such as that found on https://gsehd.gwu.edu/programs/masters-educational-leadership-and-administration. If you look at the listing of the course, you’ll clearly see that this university is preparing educators to become principals who are leaders and administrators. It isn’t enough to set the rules and regulations, it is more important to live and work by a code that sets the stage for all that follows within the facility.

Some Characteristics of a Great Leader

According to a contributor to Forbes magazine, there are some common characteristics inherent in an effective school administrator, who is usually the principal. They should:

  • Have high expectations not only for themselves but for teachers and students as well.
  • Be consistent in the mindset that being disadvantaged is not an obstacle to achievement.
  • Be inclusive of all regardless of race, gender, social standing, academic standing etc.
  • Have a relentless focus on staff development.
  • Exhibit expert skills in the assessing and tracking of student progress.
  • Cultivate working relationships, especially with parents and the community.

And there are more, but as you can see, the effectiveness of an educational system starts at the top and filters down. Without effective leadership, a school system is bound to fail.

In the end, is the system failing us or are we failing the system? Perhaps if we focused more on what it takes to be an effective school principal or administrator, as the case may be, it would filter down into a society that encourages regrowth within our system and fosters an environment conducive to learning. Somehow the two are forever intertwined and that’s why it is probably necessary to fix both, or nothing at all.

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