A teacher can reach 20 to 30 students in a class period. A principal can impact the lives of up to a few thousand students during a school year. The classroom teacher has the greatest effect on student learning, but school leadership is second only to classroom teaching in its effect on student learning. Kenneth Leithwood and his colleagues have estimated that school leadership accounts for 5 percent to 7 percent of the differences in student learning and achievement between schools, and  strong school leadership is essential to attracting and retaining quality classroom teachers. Bill and Melinda Gates also mentioned the importance of school leadership in their work to improve schools in the United States, reflecting that they assisted “the education sector [to] learn more about what makes a school highly effective. Strong leadership, proven instructional practices, a healthy school culture, and high expectations are all key.”

Principals take on the critical task of developing faculty, training and preparing them for future projects and opportunities in leadership. A highly-qualified principal knows curriculum and instruction, how to lead change, and how to persist and do what is needed for faculty to do the work. This commitment to guide and facilitate community ideally lasts for many years, leaving a legacy. Today we are sharing insights from experts and leaders in the field on practices that principals use to build schools that thrive.

Face Time

In the business world, companies typically arrange meetings multiple times a week, sometimes daily. This is also true for faculty, and teachers are usually organized based on department, subject or grade level, equipped with a predetermined agenda. But unlike many companies, all of this structure within faculty meetings doesn’t allow for much open discussion.

Instead, principal Lolli Haws suggests 15 minutes be set aside during these meetings for groups to share what they’re working on, solicit advice, and collaborate outside of their typical teams. Creating some guidelines for this time can prevent discussion from becoming complaint-focused, and encouraging idea generation and solutions will help to keep everyone productive, which can foster a general feeling of time well spent.

In the News

When it comes to sharing events and marketing, many schools have swapped out newsletters for websites. Gradelink’s school websites help schools demonstrate their core values, market to prospective families, and boost admissions. A custom site includes:

  • Your school’s logo, colors and more.
  • Photo galleries and videos you can update yourself.
  • An automated scheduling app to book more tours. One school booked five tours in the first week with its new website!
  • Integration with Gradelink Calendar or Google Calendar.
  • Integration with EnrollMe online admissions.
  • Integration with social media — Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and others.
  • Responsive design optimized for smartphones and tablets.

Gradelink’s Calendar feature also allows for easy communication with powerful, detailed event tracking and planning abilities to keep everyone in sync. The faculty calendar only shows events to staff, while the all-school calendar is visible to parents and can be embedded on the school website. Teachers can even have class-specific calendars that include assignments by the due date and class-related events.

Hiring Within

When your school is ready to hire a new principal, look no further than, well, your own school. Shaping faculty for future administrative positions is consistent with private sector management and succession. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins observed that only 5 percent of his “great company” CEOs were external hires, whereas 30 percent of his comparison company CEOs were outsiders (who averaged half the tenure of the great company CEOs). The Aldine Independent School District in Texas is one example of an award-winning, high-performing district with a track record of developing its own principals. Highly effective districts grow their own leaders, because these districts have succession planning in place. If you’re thinking about retirement, in-house succession planning may be a viable option for your school.

Family First

Sending letters home simply isn’t the best way to reach busy parents anymore, but family engagement is imperative to student success.

The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education states that “Parent involvement in education is crucial. No matter their income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school.” Parents need convenient communication methods, and data pulled from the Speak Up Research Project shows that parents “prefer to have information pushed to them via email or texts” rather than searching around themselves on social media and other websites.

Some great apps that make communication a breeze are Remind, ClassDojo, and Bloomz. SmartSend, Gradelink’s email blast feature, lets principals and administrators (and optionally teachers) easily send messages or announcements to individuals or groups. Communicate with parents, staff, or even the entire school.

Finally, remembering to log your own family time is also at the heart of the advice principal Melody Nichols offers to all principals: “Make sure that time with your family is listed as an important priority appointment on your calendar; at least once a week is best!” Principals have so many bases to cover that they often neglect factoring in personal responsibilities, so an action-based solution is to put it into the work calendar.

Whether you’re new to school leadership or have many years of service, these practical pieces of advice can help to improve your results.

Click here to set up a demo to see how you can help your school thrive.

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