May 27, 2009
"A leader must have the courage to act against an expert's advice," Sunny Jim once said (for those rusty on their modern European history, that's James Callaghan, PM of the UK in the late 70s.) Perhaps a lesson for Joel Klein, who's now taking heat from experts on his 14-month principal training boot camp, the Leadership Academy. A recent NYU study found that Academy graduates--high performing intellectuals and professionals, often recruited from outside the system, sometimes from outside K-12 education--fall short on the city's report cards when compared with traditionally-trained school leaders. In particular, parents tend to have less confidence in Academy-prepared principals and Academy-led schools have higher teacher turnover. But courage, abandon us not! The Academy has been around only since the advent of mayoral control in 2002. Thus, the principals it has trained are relatively new on the job. Compared to the veterans who have escaped Klein's principal purge, it would be an impressive individual indeed who could stack up. Further, as the study itself points out, being one of Joel Klein's principals requires variegated leadership qualities that "ask for things that don't often come in the same person." Klein may be recruiting Ivy-league smarties, but he may not yet have perfected his selection technique. Before we condemn these fledgling school leaders, let's give them a bit longer to make their mark.
"Principals Younger and Freer, but Raise Doubts in the Schools," by Elissa Gootman and Robert Gebeloff, New York Times, May 25, 2009