NSCEE's principal action group, Taking Action to Support Principals, made up of a subset of NSCEE states is meeting virtually this week to review states' modified rapid prototyping plans. Through specific and targeted support, the principal action group facilitates connections across states and national collaborators and propels support for school principals. CCSSO develops content for the group with input from members.
The first area of exploration for the principal action group was the power of policy levers and their ability to shape school leadership. A Wallace-commissioned report from Paul Manna, in which he provides six possible levers, is the anchor report for this work.
Manna's framework for strengthening principals by way of policy comes with a qualifier: "There's no single formula for better state policy regarding principals because each state is unique." Despite variances, Manna asserts any initiative that targets school leadership development through a policy-driven plan should have three key elements:
1. Education policymakers everywhere must clearly understand contextual factors and how they affect principals;
2. The high-stakes outcomes connected to excellent school leadership mean policymakers must advocate to make this item a priority on state education policy agendas; and
3. SEA leaders must identify policy levers supportive of principal development and support.
From there, Manna's list of policy levers includes adopting principal leadership standards into laws and regulations, licensing new and veteran principals, professional learning and leadership evaluation. Members of the principal action group examined, within the context of their states, the effectiveness of these six levers. Each state team then devised a short-term, actionable goal around a preferred policy lever. Over the remainder of 2015-2016 program year, the participants will share their progress, outcomes, and lessons learned with colleagues in the action group.
The action group strategy replaces topical meetings, which previously convened NSCEE members around an explicit subject and left actions to individuals to undertake once they returned home. The action groups progress in a slightly different manner. Designed to sustain work and learning, participants convene more frequently around a set theme, and they decide how, through short-term goals, they can test out a practice or refine a policy that advances work, all while shaping state and national relationships. Learning is constant; progress is recurrently traced and reported.
The group learned how each policy lever strengthens the education workforce system for school leaders during a November policy briefing with Manna and joint meeting with NGA. In December, several states explored problems of practice for supporting the professional practice of school leaders at the Learning Forward/NSCEE "Meeting within a Meeting." Participants will present their results at the NSCEE Summit slated for June 2016.
"A growing number of our states believe in a theory of action focused on supporting principals in order to increase their ability to support teaching and learning. We agree and will continue to coordinate resources to maximize their efforts," said Holly Boffy.