26 January 2006

The Principles of Principals

The principals of our district junior high schools had a "retreat" today at the home of their boss. I was invited to stop by for a little while, as they knew they would have some questions about the upcoming changes in science. I had anticipated what they specifically wanted to talk about and felt good about being able to do that.

I had to leave to get to my next appointment, just when the conversation was really starting to get good. The principals had moved from thinking about science specifically to what they needed to do in order to have a consistent program throughout the district.
  • Staff are expected to use the adopted curriculum as the primary resource. It should be used as often as possible, although it is understood that some supplementation is expected.
  • Staff are also expected to teach to the standards.
  • Staff should obtain training on how to best implement the curriculum. The district will provide opportunities, but if a teacher chooses not to attend these, they will need to find their own training.
  • Staff should use common assessments. This could be just used at specific progress points during the year, such as the end of each semester.
  • Principals are responsible for monitoring these goals. If a staff member chooses not to use the program, this will be documented in their evaluation and could eventually lead to their dismissal.

I really like this united front that they want to have. The Union is very strong in this district, so the goal is to get them on board with these first...then explain them to the full district staff. There are definitely going to be teachers who don't like one or more of these ideas. The first two bullets are actually part of state law, it's just that the principals haven't monitored them in the classroom. The third one (training) could become part of board policy. It is believed that the one related to assessments could, too.

None of these principles relates to the "how" of the classroom. There are plenty of best practices to choose from and the new science curricula really provides a lot of various support. If assessments are at the semester, then teachers will still have a lot of flexibility in terms of organizing the curriculum. Academic freedom can remain uncompromised without sacrificing student progress toward the standards.

Next year is going to look a whole lot more principled.

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