The Atlantic has an interesting article entitled “Should Principals Be Treated Like CEOs?” I think a more appropriate title for the article would have been, “Should Principals Be CEOs?” To me that is what they are really getting at in their report.
Since this “school-to-business” ideology was foisted on public schools years ago, we have watched the structure of schooling change to be more corporate-like and often business words are infiltrated into schools, sometimes without awareness.
For example, how many times has the word “stakeholder” been used in regard to schools recently, and does it refer to parents? You decide.
CEO talk in reference to principals needs to be taken seriously. Principals are just a step away from the classroom, so turning them into CEOs is double trouble.
For the most part The Atlantic article references information from the think tank groups who have always promoted the school to business swap.
Here are some of the points from the article on which I disagree:
1. There is a shortage of principals.
There’s a long line of teachers, in most communities, who take extra ed administrative courses in college and who are waiting to be assistant principals and later principals. For small towns out in the boondocks who possibly have a problem with recruitment, if they have a problem, the school superintendent should place an ad in education newspapers and ed journals like they have always done. In this economy, my guess is they will get applicants with appropriate education degrees and credentials who also have a background working with children
The problem is, when they talk about a principal shortage, they are really talking about principals that will be different. They are referring to individuals who will push a more businesslike agenda.
2. Principals lack the capacity to lead.
By leading, they appear to be referring to raising test scores. While a certain amount of testing should be done at times, and improvement should be noted and a part of a principal’s evaluation, the climate of high-stakes testing is extremely controversial. Most schools need to scale back on assessment and quit making it the dominant force in a school. Parents are becoming ever more disgruntled about this issue and are increasingly opting their children out of the test. See here for an example.
And the claim that America’s schools have not been able to compete is wearing thin. Certainly, blaming principals for international test comparisons is a stretch.
A 2013 report by Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute says conclusions such as this, referring to international test comparisons, “are over simplified, frequently exaggerated, and misleading. They ignore the complexity of test results and may lead policymakers to pursue inappropriate and even harmful reforms.”
3. Being a principal is a tough job and it needs to be turned into a “phenomenal career.”
Being a principal is a tough job, but if it wasn’t already seen as a great career, why are there so many people wanting to be principals? The stress that has been ladled onto the backs of principals has more to do with insidious reforms having to do with unnecessary budget cuts, job insecurity, and disciplinary issues. Principals need support from their school districts, just like teachers need support from their principals. And, like teachers, they need the freedom to try new innovations and not be hamstrung to unproven corporate reforms. I’m thinking Common Core.
4. Principals should be paid $100,000 more.
If a school district has the money and the school board representing the community decides they should pay principals more then so be it. But what you don’t want to do is start paying principals according to test scores or based on a phony reward system.
It makes me uncomfortable to hear this message, because it is the same rhetoric often used to discuss teacher pay. There have been all kinds of poor merit plans put in place that have failed abysmally. The truth is, most of the attacks on teachers and unions today is really about decreasing pay. This is why senior, more experienced teachers, are targeted and why a revolving door Teach for America recruit, who won’t stay on the job more than 2-3 years, is welcomed.
And how is teacher pay working out for those working in charter schools?
5. Principals should not be “glorified teachers.”
While I agree that becoming a principal is much different than being a teacher, and requires different preparation and skills, the best principals are those who do not forget the experience they had as a teacher. They should draw upon that experience in order to understand the difficulties and the hopes and aspirations of the teachers who seek their guidance. Teaching experience is critical to any administrator who supervises or is over teachers and students.
6. Principals need to “market” the school and do fundraising with local businesses.
I do think principals need to promote their school, but more to develop a sense of community pride among parents and students. Connecting with local business groups is important too, but businesses should automatically be vested in their local schools. They should work hand-in-hand expressing their workforce needs and helping graduates who are interested in getting the specific skills they need and a foothold into the companies.
So to sum it up…principals have been in this job for years. To compare them to CEOs doesn’t make sense. But principals do need to do well in their positions because it is a critically important job.
Comming up soon: What skills, including some new ones, do principals need to do a good job?