Principals and Ambitious Leadership

Education has changed from strict rote memorization and facts to teaching students to be creative, adaptive, and to use critical thinking.  These skills help with applying the knowledge they are learning.  Colleges have changed as well and thus standards and expectations have changed and the bar for achievement is increasingly higher.  Principals are key to meeting these challenges.  Their knowledge and skills need to expand too.

Ambitious leadership means principals must execute their plans with focus and value with an aim on meeting the connections to college and career ready expectations.

High School Principals

Principals are to understand the demands of college standards and assessments, what is relevant and effective instruction, and how-to utilize leadership.  To lead, effective resource management, maximized learning time, and encouragement of an additional professional learning culture is all important to success.

Among the many aspects a principal must focus on, one aspect is to gain improvement via setting a vision for challenging instruction which considers standards and material.  Changes and adjustments can include reorganizing schedules, building teacher knowledge and staff size, guided reading, integrate more grade-specific texts, or develop even unique new programs.  However, these are done, the principal is our guiding force to the staff, counselors, and students of the school.  Therefore, the part of their vision to improve quality and opportunities to students will lead to success in college and beyond.

An example includes a New York City public school that consisted of 90% Hispanic/Black students, 86% low income, and 38% special education.  He learned and visited schools using more inquiry based and progressive models of education.  Informed by an understanding of college and career ready standards, the principal established a school with inquiry-based education, student choices, and a tract for arts and culture.

College Ready Students

The principal is key to reaching college ready students by not just encouraging and providing the education to the future applicants for a college, but they have to encourage and recruit the teachers and staff into the same vision, desires, and enthusiasm to make this successful.  This requires work and was needed in the implementation of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop model.  This model gives students choices in what they wish to read and write about, encourages independent work, smaller group instruction, class discussions.  The model is designed to “build habits of self-monitoring, sustained reading, and curiosity.”

Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop model

The principal in this example used the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop model. The Workshop model gives students significant choice in reading and writing and utilizes independent work, small-group instruction, and paired with class-wide discussion to “build habits of self-monitoring, sustained reading, and curiosity.” Schools that purchase the curriculum can also receive professional development from Teachers College, which Higgins saw as an opportunity to build his staff’s understanding of how to “teach in a more child-centered environment . . . of creating a classroom where more student voice is heard.”

Similarly, another school wanted to focus on learning with an emphasis on content and emotional learning.  For students to excel in college they aimed to expose students to “everything.”  Deeper learning, metacognition, and student ownership of their studies.  The principal brought the Montessori-style concept to public education.  Curriculum was developed that prioritized inquiry, learning time, student involvement, and even pop-culture aspects to classes such as arts and sciences.  They developed student classes to let the students focus on independent study and research with a plan to help them do project-based learning and for them to incorporate material into the curriculum.  Collaboration with colleges brings in material as well as recognition of the university.  Students worked more in small groups and ultimately the overall school’s scores soared beyond expectations.  Thus, presenting better applicants to colleges.

In conclusion, many teaching techniques are available and cater to students progressing.  When a college works with a principal on his/her vision for their school, they can provide support and material that ultimately leads to better students that will ultimately be exceptional candidates for your college programs.