Eleven state teams from New Jersey, Georgia, West Virginia, California, Missouri, Hawaii, Arizona, South Carolina, Utah, Kentucky, and Oklahoma engaged in collective dialogues about school leader challenges existing in each state.
The dialogue occurred at the "Meeting-within-a-Meeting" held at the Learning Forward annual conference.
Teams consisted of teachers, principals, and state education agency staff. In order to help participants track challenges, attendees posted to the NSCEE file cabinet a document that explains the exact need for guidance. Teams organized into small groups at the meeting where they explained challenges in more depth and answered existing questions. Thereafter, the team that presented the problem remained silent while group members reiterated their perception of the obstacle and discussed solutions. Once this portion of the conversation ended, the state team that received feedback explained how the information contributes to a solution.
Jason Perez, executive director of teacher and leader effectiveness at the Oklahoma Department of Education, and a middle school principal from the area represented the state's team. Their school leader problems-of-practice are rooted in the principal evaluation process. Presently, Oklahoma lacks an evaluation process that uses meaningful data to identify strong or struggling principals, and there is not enough flexibility within the current framework to allow new principals to develop without holding them to the same level of accountability as seasoned veterans.
The team sought direction on how to,
- Develop a structure of interventions within the evaluation process to help those who need more support?
- Create a quantitative measurement system which utilizes valuable information without adding additional work to the administrator's plate?
- Navigate through the political barriers that may prevent the best evaluation model for administrators?
Group members--from Missouri and California--shared their difficulties with the principal evaluation process and pathways used to address similar concerns. On the question of how staff can navigate political barriers that may prevent the best evaluation model for administrators, Missouri recommended state education staff in Oklahoma partner with superintendent, principal, and school board associations to create a more unified vision of the evaluation process. Afterward, the vision should be shared with legislators who can modify evaluation laws. Education staff for Oklahoma seek opportunities to strengthen relationships with these associations. The chance to partner with each organization around school leadership presents a meaningful opportunity to advance this goal, Jason said. He added, the instruction received from group members is practical, much like the overall feedback process utilized at the meeting.
He suspects state education staff may lack opportunities to inquire if peers in other areas experience particular problems-of-practice, which leaves open the questions of whether specific obstacles are unique, and if not, what actions advanced needs: "Not only did I enjoy it, as far as having Missouri and California help us with our problem-of-practice, but I enjoyed being able to help with their problem."
Jason reflected further: "When you're able to work with other states, you start to hear more similarities than differences. It's nice to know you're not going down the wrong path and from others who can make solution paths better. This type of collaboration that is being offered to us is critical growth for everybody involved."