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Navigating the Every Student Succeeds Act: The Platform—The Development of Leaders

May Navigating Essa 9

Build their capacity as instructional leaders and build school culture.
Sue Gendron, President, International Center for Leadership in Education

Did you know there is virtually no documented evidence of struggling schools being turned around without the influence and direction of a strong leader? The Every Student Succeeds Act provides every district and school with the opportunity to invest in the development of principals and teachers as instructional leaders. Title I: School Improvement and Title IIA: Building Systems of Support for Excellent Teaching and Leading provide to every state the flexibility to design Principal Preparation Academies, induction and mentoring programs, professional development for principals, and developing a principal pipeline. What should the focus of these opportunities be to ensure we have leaders who can create cultures of collaboration, high expectations, and strong relationships among all school staff with students and their families?

The International Center for Leadership in Education has been engaged in the development of leaders for 25 years and has documented successful change in schools through the Daggett System for Effective Instruction (DSEI). The system is comprised of three segments: Organizational Leadership, Instructional Leadership, and Teaching. Today I want to share with you the actions we have observed in the most successful instructional leaders we’ve worked with during the last quarter century.

Successful instructional leaders:

  • Use research to establish the urgent need for change to promote higher academic expectations and positive relationships. Research helps leaders reinforce the vision set forth by the organization. They must clearly communicate to all constituents the process that will be used for change needed in academic, social, and emotional areas.
  • Develop, implement, and monitor standards-aligned curriculum and assessments. Instructional leaders are charged with implementing a curriculum and instruction process that engages teachers and key leaders and assures a tight connection between aligned standards and instruction and assessment. They are also responsible for monitoring the process to ensure that standards are aligned and that instruction and assessment reflect the adopted curriculum.
  • Integrate literacy and math across all disciplines. In order to prepare students for success beyond school, instructional leadership must ensure that that the integration and application of math and literacy standards across all disciplines are supported, implemented, and monitored.
  • Facilitate data-driven decision making to inform instruction. By ensuring that educators have access to relevant data, leaders enable their staff to analyze trends related to district and school goals, monitor learner progress (growth toward proficiency), and differentiate instruction based on student needs. Instructional leaders must have systems in place and monitor the effective use of data.
  • Provide opportunities for professional learning, collaboration, and growth focused on high-quality instruction and increased student learning. The most relevant data and research are crucial to determining the professional learning needs of the district or the school. Leaders must find ways to implement professional learning that maximizes growth of individuals and then track increased learner achievement. Professional learning should target and support both the foundations of effective instruction and the foundations of effective leadership that support that effective instruction.

It is time to take action and invest in developing strong instructional leaders if we are going to ensure success for every student.


Want to learn more about strategies to effectively address district and school accountability indicators in ESSA? Join Dr. Bill Daggett, founder of ICLE—a division of HMH—for a one-day institute in Albany, New York, on October 9, 2019. Register here.

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