Preparing for Success: What Great Principals Do Over the Summer

by | Jun 13, 2023


In the ever-evolving world of education, the role of a school principal goes beyond being a managerial figure to being an active leader that shapes the school culture, pedagogical practices, and overall success. Their work doesn’t end when the final school bell rings in June; instead, summer provides a valuable opportunity to reflect, plan, and innovate.


This article explores strategies great principals employ during the summer months, specifically focusing on data-driven decision making and improving outcomes for struggling learners, English Language Learners (ELL), students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and those at risk of failure.


Data-Driven Decision Making

Successful principals use the summer to reflect on the past school year’s data, identifying areas of strength and those that need improvement. This includes considering student achievement data, teacher evaluations, parent feedback, and other relevant information. By deeply analyzing this data, principals can identify patterns and trends, guiding the development of effective strategies for the upcoming year.


A particular area of focus should be struggling readers, students who did not meet their IEP goals in reading and math, ELL, and students at risk of failure. For these students, reviewing their progress data individually, and not merely as part of the larger student population, helps principals understand where the gaps lie and what kind of interventions were successful or unsuccessful.


Staff Development and Recruitment

Amidst a national teacher shortage, proactive planning is vital to ensure student success. Great principals prioritize teacher recruitment, training, and retention. They start recruitment early, making use of professional networks, teacher education programs, and even social media.


Moreover, they strive to create an environment that is attractive to potential teachers. This involves creating a supportive culture, offering meaningful professional development, and ensuring fair compensation.


To combat teacher shortage, principals can also explore alternative staffing strategies like partnering with local universities for student teachers, hiring retired educators, or utilizing community volunteers for non-instructional tasks to free up teachers’ time.


Personalized Support Strategies

To help struggling learners and students with IEPs, principals should prioritize personalized learning strategies. These include Response to Intervention (RTI), multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), and differentiated instruction. Workshops and professional development sessions can be organized during the summer for teachers to learn about and plan these strategies.


For ELL students, principals can explore effective programs and strategies that have shown success elsewhere, such as dual-language programs or targeted language acquisition supports.


At-risk students may require even more comprehensive supports, including mentoring, counseling, and additional academic supports. Connecting with community organizations over the summer can help establish partnerships that provide these resources in the fall.


Engaging the School Community

Great principals know the value of a connected school community. Over the summer, they seek out conversations with stakeholders, including staff, parents, and even students, to gather ideas, insights, and feedback. This provides the opportunity to build relationships, understand community needs, and convey that everyone has a stake in the school’s success.


Moreover, this engagement extends to planning for the fall. Principals can include teachers, staff, and even students in planning opening events, setting classroom norms, and other start-of-school-year activities.


Preparing for the Long Haul

Finally, great principals play the long game. They understand that real, sustainable change takes time, patience, and consistency. As they plan for the coming year, they set realistic, data-driven goals, and create systems to monitor progress and adjust strategies as needed throughout the year.


Preparing for the upcoming school year is not an easy task, but great principals embrace this challenge with gusto. By employing data-driven decision making, proactive staffing strategies, personalized supports, community engagement, and strategic planning, they set their schools up for success.



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