Those familiar with schools and staff know that Principals have a limited amount of time each day, so it’s imperative that they are laser-focused on reading instruction and breaking down the barriers that may impact student achievement. The number one priority, and the heartbeat of highly effective schools, is teaching and learning. Simple, basic concepts, right? Well, there are many individual components that go into the process of teaching and learning, so it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.
One of the components of teaching and learning involves Instructional Leadership, which encompasses management and vision, with a focus on improving teaching and learning. (NAESP,2001). Today’s school leaders have a plethora of responsibilities and none of them can be neglected. However, teaching and learning must remain at the top of the priority list and time must be set aside each day to focus on these areas.
Instructional leadership requires principals to free themselves of bureaucratic tasks and focus their efforts on improving teaching and learning. (https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/J-F_p34.pdf)
Instructional leaders must ensure that all students are reading at proficient and advanced levels to guarantee they are college and career-ready. Principals must be well versed in scientific, evidence-based reading instruction and strategies that really work. This means that they have the knowledge to adequately provide guidance and support with the selection and implementation of programs and strategies that address the needs of ALL students.
Areas of Focus
The four areas that an instructional leader should focus on are:
1) the alignment of curriculum
4) grade-level standards
In order to be effective, standards-based assessments must be aligned to the curriculum and instruction. These components must align in order to significantly increase student achievement results. Alignment is an ongoing process as grade-level standards-based instruction, curriculum, and assessments cycle through improvements. Instructional Leaders must use multiple sources of student achievement data to assess performance (NAESP,2001). Research indicates that effective Principals have “a view of instructional improvement as an ongoing process” (Chase & Kane,1983). As you can see, Principals are and will continue to be a key element in school improvement efforts.
Areas of Responsibility
The research surrounding highly effective school leadership highlights five areas of responsibility that significantly improve the outcomes for all students.
1) identify the school’s priority goals
2) align efforts to achieve the goals
3) administer different types of assessments
4) monitor progress to measure student growth and proficiency over time
5) use data to make instructional decisions
Highly effective Principals are those adept at priority goal setting. They also need to stay informed about alignment issues, be knowledgeable about assessments, and be consistently supportive of professional learning communities to improve teaching and learning. These leaders invite all community stakeholders to the school improvement conversation to significantly increase student achievement results across the board.
Instructional Leaders have to be serious about their role, treating instructional improvement as an important goal. A goal, that when implemented, allows both teachers and students to create a more meaningful, impactful learning environment. What can you do to be a better Instructional Leader? What can we do, individually, to support the Instructional Leaders in our schools? Don’t be afraid to step up into the role yourself and reinvent your relationships through leadership.