Principal Priorities for School Improvement

The importance of teacher effectiveness on student achievement has been well-documented. School leadership is second only to teaching among schoolrelated factors influencing student achievement. However, the job of a principal is arguably one of the most interrupted jobs anywhere. Principals are continually bombarded by students, parents, staff, and the mini-crises that occur each day.Although many researchers and educators have written about school leadership,few have offered a concrete path of how to put all the pieces together on a daily,weekly, and monthly basis. Early in the 2015-16 school year, I was asked to support the Principal of Oak Park Charter School, a K-5 charter school in Sacramento. Like most of her peers, this Principal was overwhelmed by the multiple demands of her job. After reviewing school-based data, interviews with stakeholders, and a thorough review of relevant literature, I designed an intervention focused on coaching the OPC K-5 Principal on how to prioritize and meet the multiple demands of her job. My analysis of intervention data yielded several key findings. When principal on-the-job support is delivered in a structure that creates psychological safety, even in less than ideal conditions, identification and narrowing of the principal “knowing-doing gap” is possible. Furthermore, coaching principals on
building shared understanding and relational trust is crucial to starting and sustaining distributed leadership efforts aimed at helping principals prioritize the multiple demands of the job.

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