Another Great Idea…

I know this is probably well intentioned and not just an crass attempt at profile enhancement but Representative John Sarbanes’s (MD-3) recent legislative proposal on improving school principals is little more than a tragic self beclowning.

Behind every successful school, there’s a talented principal, so local school districts should research what makes them great and then train other administrators to emulate them, says U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes.

As lawmakers weigh whether to reauthorize the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the Maryland congressman has inserted language into the draft legislation that would pump $100 million into research examining what makes first-rate principals.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that $100 million in social sciene research can accomplish this with any degree of certitude. How does this having this knowledge do anything for you? Will employment laws allow you to use it? Are we really sure there is even a template for what makes a successful principal? Could you take a successful principal from Potomac, MD and transplant them into Baltimore City and expect the same results?

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Leadership is situational. There are leadership styles that flourish in chaos and others that work well within a well defined set or work rules. And even “success” means different things in different places.

And while we’re at it, principals think about what you’re saying before you shoot your mouth off. We’re adults, not 15-year olds.

Maryland’s 2007 Principal of the Year, Moreno Carrasco, who leads Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, welcomed the proposed bill.

“The average principal works 80 hours a week and only spends two hours on academic achievement because they are so distracted with disciplinary problems and security, and not the quality of teachers and the fidelity of the curriculum,” Carrasco said.

Does anyone believe the average principal is on the job twelve hours a day, seven days a week? Or 16 hours a day during a school week? I didn’t think so.

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