ELD CHARACTERISTICS AND PROBLEMS
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CURRENT SITUATION OF SCHOOLS AND
- Important changes in education: From learning returning to pedagogy (Biesta);
- Non-fundamental changes by the use of ICT in education and personalised learning, upscaling use of ICT difficult;
- Seemingly contradictory trends: Decentralisation and autonomy of school (e.g. Sweden), versus fighting the inequality stemming from such features of education (e.g. Chile);
- Detailed accountability focussing on measurable results of schools;
- Schools challenged to become excellent schools with declining resources;
- In theory: Focus on instructional leadership, distributed leadership, hybrid leadership and system leadership plus professional learning communities;
- In theory: A change of focus from leadership towards professional collaboration of teachers as major condition for sustainable innovation;
- In practice: Anxious teachers feeling hardly any leeway for acting as a professional;
- In practice: Anxious principals and higher level managers avoiding to be blamed, choosing for ‘proven' solutions;
- Growing support for school leaders: training, consultancy, research, but...
- Declining trust in capacities of organisations supporting schools;
- Universities and schools cooperating in action-research schemes, but transferability of results still low.
DEVELOPMENTS SCHOOL LEADERS EXPERIENCE AS RELEVANT IN THEIR CONTEXT
- Solving problems of their students in cooperation with a growing range of other organisations (e.g. other schools, justice, health, social welfare);
- Sharing responsibilities for students in other schools (system leadership);
- Uncertainty about management levels between schools and other levels like provinces or ministries (some vanishing, some new appearing) bringing constant fights about responsibilities;
- Inspectorates creeping into the details of the school
- Appointment of national leaders in education after breakdown of support for schools (UK);
- Self-improving schools as philosophy and as means of cut funding (UK).
MAIN FACTORS INFLUENCING THESE DEVELOPMENTS
- Neoliberal thinking;
- Fact free policies and management versus strong focus on wide-scale data collection (OECD, World Bank);
- Comparisons between countries (e.g. PISA) promoted by global, economy-oriented organisations (also OECD, World Bank);
- Successful initiatives for lower SES students (mis)used for diverting public budget to non-public schools with lower accountability
(Charter schools, USA; Academies, UK; Kunskapsskolan, Sweden). Large scale implementation not successful;
- Education is seen as costs not as investments in the future;
- Growing global education industry seeking and getting access to education budgets (meant for schools);
- Global (rhetorical) attention for equity;
- Focus on evidence-based innovation, sometimes widening the interpretation of evidence;
- Killing creativity to build innovative new schools by quality control;
- Distrust in research (Ioannidis), ELD research incoherent;
- Research mainly on leadership of those schools that in fact are old-school organisations;
- Growing attention for action-research, sometimes widening the interpretation of what is real scientific research;
- Distrust in training and consultancy, distrust in authority;
- Expected growing distrust of principals and teachers, parents not any longer accepting the authority of them;
- Students not any longer believing in relevance of school for their future.
BECOMING A GOOD SCHOOL LEADER OF A GOOD SCHOOL
- Consider a good school as a realistic goal to aim for. (Research shows that only very few schools can maintain to be an excellent school);
- Strengthen the professionalism of the teachers (hopefully with internalised accountability);
- Carefully select the goals that you make yourself responsible for. Do not overstate your possibilities to be responsible (it causes anxiety and/or power play);
- Support teachers in their self-chosen paths of becoming a better professional;
- Prepare to defend differences in the behaviour of teachers;
- Do not compete with other schools, make yourself responsible for the wellbeing of children beyond your school;
- Invite students to take responsibility and to be partners in the construction and implementation of learning processes (not all students will accept the invitation just like not all teachers do);
- Concentrate resources on less-resourced students (having less budget, less social capital). (Asking volunteers to support those students shows a misunderstanding of your responsibility);
- Consider instructional leadership as teaming up with individual teachers or groups of teachers in clarifying their theory of their practice of instruction, support your teachers to extend their learning communities outside the school;
- Define distributed leadership as a constant search for colleagues who want to take responsibility;
- Resist attempts of teachers and students to broaden your responsibilities (there will be many attempts);
- Focus on and solve together the problems that students encounter, which precedes a vision and a mission;
- Do not try to create a culture of trust. Start with trusting teachers in their professionality;
- Do not attempt faithful implementation of a model or practice from others. It removes your creativity and the creativity of the people with whom you work;
- Acknowledge that certain goals can’t be combined e.g. high quality education and efficiency;
- Be satisfied that major decisions regarding inequality will be taken at a higher level and be prepared that stakeholders in school will try to redress those decisions.
- Focus data collection only on goals really relevant for you (such as results of lower SES children). Avoid/ fight against detailed accountability on all aspects of the organisation.
UNIVERSITIES AND OTHER ORGANISATIONS SUPPORTING SCHOOL LEADERS
- Continuing (participatory) case studies trying to identify different composites or compositions or configurations of good working schools (the level below excellent - without extra resources, or volunteers or much overtime from teachers);
- Selecting sparring partners that can help you find what might be missing in your configuration;
- Do not trust partners-in-spe that offer you single clear-cut model reducing your complexity to a simple eight factor, four phases model (or similar). Hardly ever the models tell you how to go forward from phase one to next phases.
- Hopefully consultants learn not to propose measures that are not in your reach or that are even more complex to realise than the original problem (Fullan ICT-advice Latin-America).