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School-Leaders' Standards Moving Toward Final Review

A 13-member working group of principals and education leadership experts will review and finalize the long-awaited school leadership standards later this month before sending the measures to the National Policy Board for Educational Administration for approval in October.

Three sitting principals were added to the final standards revision process after a review showed that practicing principals were under-represented while the higher education community was over-represented on the various committees that worked on the standards during the nearly two-year-long undertaking, said Mary-Dean Barringer, the strategic initiative director for education workforce at the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization that owns the copyright to the standards and is leading the revision process jointly with the NPBEA.

The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards, or ISLLC, are used to set benchmarks for what principals should know and do to lead students and teachers.  

According to the CCSSO, the standards are supposed to "detail the leadership skills and knowledge effective district and school leaders need in order to influence teaching and student learning."

They were last updated in 2008. Two previous drafts—one released in September and another in the spring—were met with mixed reactions from the principal and educational leadership communities.

While the updated standards garnered positive feedback overall, the most recent draft released in May was criticized by some educators, who felt that the standards did not sufficiently emphasize ethical behaviors and the role that principals play in addressing equity and other social justice issues in schools.

The working group is expected to synthesize the two sets of public comments in their Sept. 24-25 meeting in Virginia, and agree upon a final product.

When the group finishes its work, the benchmarks will then be reviewed by the NPBEA at its Oct. 22 meeting. If the NPBEA is satisfied, it will approve the standards by an up or down vote. 

"The ISLLC standards are widely regarded as the touchstone for high-quality and relevant principal development," JoAnn Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said in a news release Monday in which the CCSSO announced the development.

"I enthusiastically look forward to NPBEA's collaboration with CCSSO to craft and formally adopt this fall a revised set of standards that both reflect the challenges of contemporary school leadership and encourage leaders to transcend those challenges.

Barringer said the CCSSO was "anxious" to get the standards out to the field. They will likely be released first as a PDF and then later as hard copies.

The working group will be co-chaired by Beverly Hutton, the deputy executive director of programs/services at the National Association of Secondary Schools Principals, and Mark Smylie, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and visiting professor of leadership, policy, and organizations at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.

The rest of the panel includes:

  • James Berry, professor, educational leadership, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan
  • Andy Cole, independent consultant, Virginia 
  • Sydnee Dickson, deputy superintendent, Utah State Office of Education
  • Jayne Ellspermann, 2015 NASSP National Principal of the Year, West Port High School, Ocala, Fla.
  • Robyn Conrad Hansen, principal of Playa Del Rey Elementary School, Gilbert, Ariz., and president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • Margaret Terry Orr, Future School Leaders Academy, Bank Street College of Education, New York
  • Cortney Rowland, senior technical assistance consultant, American Institutes for Research
  • Kiela Snider, principal, Desert Springs Middle School, Desert Hot Springs, Calif.
  • David Volrath, teacher/principal evaluation, Maryland State Department of Education
  • Jacquelyn Wilson, assistant professor in the School of Education, University of Delaware 
  • Michelle Young, executive director of the University Council for Educational Administration, University of Virginia 

The CCSSO is hoping that the standards will be completed and be ready for release by the end of the year. Benchmarks for principal supervisors will be published soon thereafter, Barringer said.

But the work is not done. Once the ISLLC standards are released, work will begin on creating educational leadership preparation benchmarks. 

The revision of the leadership standards is funded by the Wallace Foundation, which donated $1 million to the CCSSO to underwrite the project.  (The Wallace Foundation supports coverage of arts education, expanded- and extended-learning time, and leadership in Education Week.)

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