Transformative School Leadership – A Principal’s Perspective

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Recently, the Department of Education released new guidance on Title II that explains how states and districts can use these federal funds to better prepare, support, and retain teachers and school leaders, especially those who serve our most vulnerable students.

Like many principals, I try to be as informed as possible about anything that affects my building, my teachers, and our students. Oxon Hill High School in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Md., where I have served as principal for the last seven years, is renowned in the district for ensuring that students’ voices on social justice issues are heard, and I’m also proud of the broad range of teacher leadership opportunities that we have made available and that, I believe, have led us to great success.

From supporting student-led initiatives to addressing issues of digital access, serving as a principal is as exciting and rewarding as it is complex and challenging. One of the greatest challenges I face is accessing learning opportunities and resources for my teachers so they can continually grow in their practice. As a new Principal Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, I am discovering that a significant component of the Every Student Succeeds Act is the Title II guidance that can fund teacher and principal preparation. With its new components, Title II is the source of countless possibilities and opportunities to better support educators.

When I first looked at the guidance, my mind raced with anticipation as I considered all the ways I could use these funds at Oxon Hill High School. I wondered if Title II could help extend our educators’ digital literacy to take the 1:1 Chromebook initiative to the next level. I also wondered how we could work with community leaders and businesses to create even more equitable learning opportunities for my students. I even thought of the great strides we continue to make at Oxon Hill High School, much of which I attribute to the teacher leadership in my building. I can only imagine how much more we can do with the help of Title II.

Two years ago, I began encouraging teacher leaders to collaboratively identify problems of practice within our school and find ways to address them. The teacher-leadership task force worked with school administrators, students, and parents to rethink school and community accountability, funding, and school improvement; however, there remained a disconnect between changing school operations and how to support learning opportunities for educators. Title II extends this idea of helping districts to reimagine ideas, practices, and protocols that support high-quality teaching and school leadership. The new regulations require state and local leaders to involve multiple stakeholders in their plan—and that includes you, the educators who are in schools and classrooms every day.

Many of the opportunities presented in Title II have a powerful impact on the scope of our work as educators. In response to the national concern for teacher and principal development, the guidance aims to help states and districts make drastic improvements in educator effectiveness. At the end of last year, many of the new teachers indicated a need for better training, mentoring, and support as developing educators. Simultaneously, with our growing Latino population, we needed more teachers who spoke Spanish and represented the same communities as our students. It was challenging to extend support for teachers needing both pedagogical and cultural relevancy training. Title II now directly addresses new structures to ensure that diverse teachers are available to teach in our schools. The guidance also explains the new ways states can develop career continuum and succession planning to ensure great teachers stay in the profession they love.

With the optional three percent set-aside for leadership development, the guidance creates opportunities for school districts to develop and implement programs that can help prepare, train, and provide much-needed mentorship to new principals. In my school district, for example, there is direct support for principals and principal supervisors to sustain a pipeline of educator effectiveness and leadership excellence. At the school level, this translates to funded teacher leadership initiatives that have a positive ripple effect all the way to the office of the superintendent. As a principal in PGCPS, Title II helps me to promote professional development that encourages teacher-led schools while also focusing on teacher induction needs of novice educators.

As I become more versed on Title II, the possibilities for growth and development become more and more evident. As my state and district leaders begin strategizing the use of funds, this guidance has propelled my thinking surrounding resources that will encourage equity, teacher leadership, principal preparedness, and leadership pipelines. From one education leader to another, when you take a look at Title II, I hope your minds can run wild with the creative possibilities and solutions that will transform your school.