The leadership illusion

Gadfly has long harbored doubts about school
turnarounds. The inertia
of low-performing schools is great
, and the middling reform efforts meant
to alter their trajectories never go far enough. But at least, he surmised,
even the softest districts almost always replace the leaders of their failing
schools, right? Nope. According to a recent New
York Times
analysis (based on data from eight states), 44 percent of
schools receiving federal turnaround money retained their principals. In
Michigan, that figure spikes to 68 percent. The Times concludes that there simply aren’t enough high-quality
principals available to lead these efforts. (If there were, we probably
wouldn’t have quite so many failing schools.) But that doesn’t have to be the
case; surely the outdated, onerous licensure requirements for principals are
keeping many talented leaders (including corporate-style turnaround artists)
out of the labor pool. So before we conclude that we’re facing a real “human
capital” shortage, let’s tear down the wall keeping lots of good people out of
our schools.

Plan to Replace Principals Hits Snag: Who Will Step In?
,” by Sam Dillon, New York Times, February 7, 2011.