How to Manage Principals

By Barry Vitcov and Gary Bloom

Traditional teacher supervision has long been a pro forma process that results in a few “dog and pony show” performances, with the principal completing some check-list based paperwork. Fortunately, this is changing, as ample evidence emerges showing that the process has not contributed to teacher effectiveness.

The supervision of the principal, however, is a sorely neglected though vital function. As research also is showing that principal quality has a direct and significant impact on student achievement, it makes sense that the evaluation and supervision process here needs to change and evolve as well.

But how?

Traditional supervision of staff has two purposes: quality control and professional growth. As researchers who have worked with new and veteran principals, we believe the supervision of building-level administrators has a third purpose: nurturing school cultures that build and maintain professional learning communities that focus on student achievement.

In schools that are developing these true communities, supervision is an ongoing coaching relationship in which teaching practice and student outcomes are public and the commitment to continuous improvement is shared by everyone -- teachers, administrators, and students. Our review of research on adult learning, learning communities, and best practices in supervision has led us to conclude that effective principal supervision processes share common characteristics -- and we would like to share those with you.

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