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Beyond Principals: Leadership Assessment Tools for All Educators

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As the end of the school year approaches, plans are already being made for the fall in schools throughout the nation. Much-needed summer improvements will take place, along with retiring teachers cleaning out their classrooms and new ones coming in. For areas that observe the traditional "summers off" school calendar, those months are still busy ones on schools grounds. Along with the physical maintenance of schools during the time when students aren't on the premises, what if schools did some non-physical improvements too?

Two education college professors from The University of Wisconsin-Madison and a consultant from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Products and Services have developed a survey-based system that calculates areas of strengths and weaknesses in schools, and creates an action plan for improvement. The Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning, or CALL, does not single any particular educators but rather takes a snapshot of what is happening as a whole entity. It is a smart assessment tool to implement at the end of the year and then brainstorm actionable steps on improvement when school is back in session.

The survey and results-delivery system were born of necessity. More than ever, schools are in need of transformational leadership that creates learning opportunities for students but also prepares them for the real-world economy. The pressure has never been greater, particularly as Common Core Standards and other state-based ones heighten accountability for teachers, administrators and other instructional staff. The belief used to be that principals were responsible for all the leadership roles within a particular school but that theory is starting to fade. While principals certainly need solid leadership traits, distributing those responsibilities can actually lead to stronger school systems that are able to better support student bodies.

The problem with existing leadership assessment tools is that they only evaluate people on an individual basis, instead of looking at how school personnel can work together to achieve maximum effectiveness. CALL was developed with funds from the U.S. Department of Education and tested in more than 150 schools containing thousands of educators. The survey itself has over 100 questions and takes around 40 minutes to complete and is thorough in its approach, thereby making it more of an "activity" than a "survey." It has five main areas of concentration, including:

Focus on learning. Essentially, this portion looks at the way school leaders practice what they preach. Do school leaders do classroom visits, and engage with students? Do they participate in the team-building and leadership programs that they design for others? Collaboration and staff buy-in to school learning initiatives is an integral part of this portion of the survey.

Monitoring teaching and learning. School leaders should be able to not only make sense of their student performance, but know how to communicate it to teachers. Monitoring of school successes does not need to mean constant micromanagement; rather, leaders should understand the scope of their students' strengths and weaknesses and know how to empower improvements.

Building nested learning communities. While educators are ultimately responsible for their own teaching successes, school leaders must provide the support and resources to make effective teaching possible. Leaders should have ways to measure teacher/student performance and be willing to put improvement plans in place.

Acquiring and allocating resources. Time spent on whole-school, grade-level and subject-matter reflection is just one aspect analyzed in this part of the survey. If external leaders are part of a school's leadership and decision-making process, then they are asked to give input on this section. The school's communication with its community through things like social media, and email, are also assessed in this portion. How are schools making the best use of their resources?

Maintaining a safe and effective learning environment. Above all, schools must be safe places for students, teachers and administrators. This starts with the basics, like cleanliness, and extends to factors like schools as safe havens for the students who may be struggling. The safety of students and their perception of being in a "safe" place do make a difference in learning effectiveness and this portion of the survey analyzes ways in which schools can maximize that fact.

It really is true that "it takes a village" and understanding how each educator in a school can best contribute to its success leads to stronger student outcomes, and stronger schools. By implementing the in-depth CALL survey, schools can see exactly HOW to get where need to be when it comes to school leaders. 

If you are interested in learning more, you can register to join a free webinar on CALL. The webinar will discuss the theory behind CALL as well as provide a demonstration of the CALL automated data feedback report system. 

This is a great opportunity for schools to obtain data on leadership effectiveness in order to support school leaders' professional growth and school improvement.

Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the newly released textbook, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends and Technologies in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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