DES MOINES — The Iowa school system should provide “learning coaches” for principals and give superintendents the chance to take on instructional duties if it wants to create better school leaders.

Those were two of the suggestions coming from a six-year study on school leadership in Iowa presented Thursday to the Iowa Board of Education.

The study was paid for by a $9.6 million grant from the Wallace Foundation and conducted by the School Administrators of Iowa.

The study included recommendations that the school system move away from workshops and seminars for professional development and focus more on job-embedded assistance to education leaders.

It also encourages principals and superintendents to spend more time out of the office and more time in the classroom.

“Superintendents need to be instructional leaders,” said Troyce Fisher, director of Cohesive Leadership Development System for the Iowa School Administrators. “In most districts, I would argue in all districts that the superintendent sets the tone.”

Key among the recommendations is creating a system of principal coaches that could be deployed in different schools. There are no price tags attached to the recommendation and, Fisher said, requirements would have to be drawn up to determine who gets a principal coach.

Fisher also recommended that state board of education members could use the bully pulpit of their positions to give support and political cover to “leaders who want to be innovators” but often become burned out by kickback from people invested in the status quo.

Department of Education Director Jason Glass said the report and its recommendations are “the right fit” for what the department is trying to accomplish with education reform in Iowa.

He did, however, raise an eyebrow at the idea that too many leaders are held back for fear of taking heat.

“Leadership’s job is to get burned,” Glass said. “You are not a leader unless you are in the fire. The skill of leadership in that sense is learning how to survive.”

 

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