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Motivating Principals

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An AP story about a recent study by the Baltimore-based nonprofit organization Advocates for Children and Youth links low performing schools with high principal turnover rates. The group, which examined schools in or near Baltimore, calls for incentives to keep principals in low achieving schools for longer periods of time with the hope that more experienced principals will improve academic performance, says the article.

There's a related article up today in the Rocky Mountain News about one principal who left her post at a high achieving middle school to work at the lowest-performing middle school in the state. Her leadership has resulted in the school moving to a "low" ranking, up from the "unsatisfactory" label it held before. The article goes on to talk about concerns from the school district and the teacher's union about the autonomy she is calling for in order to try more creative ways to further raise achievement in her school, but what I'm more interested in is what she did, and what she plans to do, to increase academic performance.

We've spent quite a bit of time talking about how teachers affect students' motivation, and even how society influences the way students approach learning, but we haven't talked much about the relationship between principals' leadership and how students learn.

What role do principals play in increasing academic performance and student motivation in their schools? What kinds of things can they do to help foster a high achieving environment? Would offering incentives for principals in low performing schools help raise test scores? Or would that actually stifle motivation by putting too strong an emphasis on grades, as Kathleen touched on in a blog entry back in July?

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Gov. Mike Easley (NC) says that
"teacher working conditions are student
learning conditions." The data from
past Teacher Working Conditions surveys indicate that teacher working conditions are the best where school
leadership is the strongest and teacher empowerment is high. For further info
see www.ncteachingconditions.org or www.ncptsc.org (NC Professional Teaching Standard Commission website)

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