Principals play a key role in the delivery of quality instruction. Their responsibilities include ensuring educational strategies are in place that support effective learning for all students. They serve as a facilitator, guide and supporter of quality instructional practices. Good principals understand that improved test scores are important but know that quality instruction is essential for improving student achievement.
Because the principal serves as the educational leader of the campus, it is imperative that they have a working knowledge of effective instructional strategies and understand the needs of their students and teachers. Principals should understand that good teaching strategies are appropriate for all students whether they have been identified as requiring support through 504, Response to Intervention (RtI), Special Education eligibility, or state assessments results.
The responsibility for outlining effective practices for student instruction is a task that should be shared with teachers and may include support from the curriculum department and consultants. The process of identifying effective practices requires collaboration.
Therefore, principals’ responsibilities should include ensuring effective collaboration takes place. They should acknowledge that collaboration is worthwhile, and it can work. It will not work, however, if a school’s leaders do not put a great deal of work, planning, and trust into it (Daane et al, 2000). The collaborative process should begin with reviewing data and getting input from teachers, curriculum staff and consultants to outline or modify the campus’ action plan.
After developing this outline, the next step in this process is to ensure that everyone is working from the same knowledge base. Principals should not assume that all teachers have the same levels of learning regarding teaching strategies and best practices. Many teachers have limited experience with educational theories and student questioning techniques. Therefore, it is imperative that campuses target appropriate professional development.
Dettmer (2005) suggests that principals should conduct surveys and use observations to determine which topics are appropriate for professional development. The topics selected should be meaningful and meet the identified needs of the campus. The goal of professional development is to improve and enhance the good teaching practices that are already in place and provide information about other effective learning strategies that may be used.
It is very seldom necessary for a campus to abandon all of their established teaching strategies and instructional practices. Current practices should be reviewed on an annual basis to determine if they have been successful. Essential to this determination is whether the program or practices has been used with fidelity, monitoring of implementation has taken place, and student achievement has been positively impacted.
After the campus staff has determined which practices are effective, the information should be shared with teachers to ensure the strategies are incorporated in their teaching practices. Meanwhile on-going professional development and monitoring of teacher implementation should continue. The practice of determining effective strategies annually and monitoring student achievement are essential for continuous improvement.
An additional responsibility of campus principals is to motivate and provide on-going support to their instructional teams. Teachers and paraprofessionals should feel valued. Teaching can be frustrating and lonely… all teachers need the advice of other experienced professionals in order to overcome the daily challenges they face (Keefe et al., 2004). Motivated teachers support student achievement and seek out additional learning opportunities to improve their teaching skills.
Campus principals play an important role in improving student achievement through their facilitation, guidance and support of effective instructional strategies. They must be willing to collaborate with staff to determine appropriate instructional strategies and support teachers through active involvement, collaboration and effective leadership.
The handout that follows is a guide to assist principals in improving student achievement. It is the taken from the Principal’s Support for Quality Instruction series by Stetson & Associates, Inc.