Top 10 District Dossier Posts of 2016: Principals and School Leadership
As the year draws to a close, here are the top 10 posts that readers on the District Dossier blog found most engaging.
Our most-read post this year was an interview with Benjamin Fenton, the co-founder of New Leaders, on the release of a new book that examined the common characteristics of high-performing principals. New Leaders trains principals and other school leaders to work in high-poverty schools. (Fenton left New Leaders this year.)
This post from 2015, based on a Schott Foundation report on the increase in graduation rates for black and Hispanic males along with a widening of the graduation gap between black male students and their white peers, continued to draw readers this year. The report also highlighted districts that were making strides in shrinking the graduation gap.
In a January poll from Gallup, fewer than one-third of superintendents surveyed said they thought parents had a solid understanding of the district's academic model and curriculum. Only 16 percent said they thought parents understood state accountability systems.
Seven universities will work with select districts, state education agencies (or credentialing commissions), and a principal-training program as part of this Wallace Foundation initiative to revamp how principals are prepared.
In the past decade or so school districts have added more personnel in schools to help principals and teachers, including assistant principals, teacher-leaders, and instructional coaches. But districts have often added extra staff without a lot of thought to how they would work together. A January report from Bain & Company dug into this phenomenon and argued that districts needed to be more strategic about how they deployed those individuals in schools in order to achieve maximum results.
Facing severe financial constraints in 2014, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission abruptly voted to cancel the teacher's union contract and make changes to the union members' health benefits. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers sued. In August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the School Reform Commission (the equivalent of the school board) overstepped and that it cannot unilaterally cancel collective bargaining agreements with its teachers. The PFT contract expired in 2013, and the two sides have been negotiating since.
New Baltimore City Schools Chief Sonja Santelises appointed DeRay McKesson, a prominent member of the Black Lives Matter movement, as the district's interim chief human capital officer.
This is another story from 2015 that resonated with readers this year. According to the 2015 survey by Huntington Bank, parents of an elementary school child expected to pay $649 to get that student ready for school in the 2015-16 school year, an increase of 1 percent over 2014.
The nation's largest school system announced in July that it will join a number of other districts across the country that had ended suspensions for their youngest students. New York City officials said that instead of suspending students in kindergarten through 2nd grade, they will instead employ alternative, "age-appropriate" discipline methods. The teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers, pushed back against the proposal saying that it could lead to disruptive classrooms.
Thomas Tucker, the superintendent of Princeton City schools in Cincinnati, was selected from a field of four finalists for the award given by the AASA, the School Superintendents Association.
Image: Benjamin Fenton, co-founder of New Leaders. Image courtesy Benjamin Fenton.