Principals: Improve Quality by Reducing Qualifications?
Washington State and South Carolina have recently proposed alternative paths to the principalship.
Apparently education is the only profession that believes that it can increase the quality of those working in the profession, teachers and administrators, by reducing the minimum qualifications to enter. Actually, education professionals are not making such ludicrous recommendations, because unlike most professions, education is not controlled by practicing professionals. Education is controlled by legislatures, state departments of education, and a few high-profile foundations!
Imagine that there was a shortage of physicians in a specific field or region and a proposal was made to increase the number of physicians by allowing anyone with a master's degree in any field to become a physician. Substitute attorneys, accountants, dentists, or airline pilots for physicians in the previous statement and you get the idea.
In reality, the proposals in Washington State and South Carolina represent the latest in a long line of reform recommendations based on the belief that "anyone can do it." Anyone can teach, even with only five weeks of training. Anyone can be a principal.
Washington State - Thumbs Down
In a recent editorial, NASSP Executive Director, Gerald Tirozzi, addresses the Washington State plan. Tirozzi writes, "The shrinking pool of school leaders is a complex problem for which alternate certification provides an answer that is, to borrow from H. L. Mencken, “clear, simple, and wrong."
Tirozzi goes on to make some salient points:
-"These principals will have no credibility with teachers."
My Take: Research proves that the major weakness of school leaders is the ability to set instructional direction--instructional leaders. So, the answer to correcting that weakness and to improving student achievement and eliminating the achievement gap is to hire principals with no teaching experience?
- "The least qualified leaders will land in the highest need schools."
My Take: No reputable school system or school would hire a principal with no experience. What that means is those school systems and schools that are the poorest and most remote will be the only ones in the market for these alternative route principals. Ironically, it is these under-resourced schools that need the best, most experienced leaders and teachers. They also have the highest turnover in principals and teachers.
- It is hypocritical to advocate one educational approach for the masses and another for your own child. "Many a legislator sends his or her child to highly personalized private schools staffed by well-trained and experienced educators who, free from the burden of test prep, capitalize on a child’s natural curiosity with a curriculum as robust in art and music as in reading and math. There’s no hypocrisy in that—every parent wants the best for their child. The hypocrisy lies in legislators using their day jobs to advocate for a different kind of education for everyone else’s child."
My Take: Not only have the so-called reformers not attended public schools themselves, but they would never allow their own children to attend public schools with larger class sizes and less-qualified, underpaid teachers. Their mantra is 'High-quality education for my child and what we can afford for your child.'
South Carolina' Proposal - Thumbs Up
You can probably tell that I am not a fan of alternative certification plans for teachers or principals, particularly those that take shortcuts. When I first started heard about South Carolina's alternative route proposal, I was feeling the same way until I read an article that outlined the key features. Currently, South Carolina allows someone with a bachelor's degree in teaching can become a principal by being a certified classroom teacher for at least three years, then graduating from an approved college program in school leadership. The new proposal would allow someone with a master's degree in any field to enter a program that involves being an assistant principal for three years, then passing an exam to become a principal. When I read the phrase "serving as an assistant principal for three years," it caught my attention and, at least, partially changed my mind.
My Take: If someone, who has been a successful manager in a business, is willing to take a pay cut to enter education and will serve a three-year apprenticeship as an assistant principal, I say bring them on! Keep in mind that these individuals would not only serve an apprenticeship, but they would have to exhibit exemplary performance in order for the district to appoint them as principal after three years.