- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

Most graduate education colleges do not teach prospective school principals the skills and knowledge necessary to lead and manage faculties, a new study shows.

The findings come as state and federal governments are demanding greater accountability for learning achievement under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The study also found that in graduate education course lessons dealing with school “norms and values,” almost two-thirds of the time is spent indoctrinating prospective principals with “left-leaning” ideological views relating to social justice, race, ethnicity and social change.

“Indeed, the principal’s critical role in the No Child Left Behind era may just be taken for granted,” according to the study by Frederick M. Hess and Andrew P. Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “There is growing evidence to suggest that the revolution in school organization, management and curricular affairs may have left principals behind.”

The AEI study was reported in the current issue of Education Next, a journal of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. It looked at 210 course syllabuses covering almost 2,500 weeks of study for graduate principal-preparation programs at 31 education colleges.

The study sought to find out what kind of preparation future principals receive in light of the school accountability standards of No Child Left Behind.

“We were interested in seeing how much emphasis programs placed on assessment and accountability within the core curriculum,” the authors wrote.

The study focused on time spent on the general topic of “managing for results” — evaluation of teachers and classroom practices, organization, improved performance of teachers and students, data management and accountability.

Just one-sixth of course time included such lessons, according to the study.

By comparison, the study found that almost twice as many class sessions were devoted to “operational issues” such as school law, finance and facilities management.

“We expected to find that many of the lessons on managing for results would be spent teaching principals to leverage accountability systems to help improve instruction and drive student achievement,” the authors said.

“Instead, only 13 percent of the course weeks spent on managing for results actually attempted to link school management to standards-based accountability systems, state assessments or the demands of No Child Left Behind.

“Unless the topic was being smuggled in elsewhere in the course, only about 50 of 2,424 course weeks, or 2 percent of all instruction, addressed accountability as a management issue,” according to the study.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of all school superintendents report that raising student achievement is the biggest part of a principal’s evaluation, the authors said .

Yet principal-preparation programs “are leaving some of the most important management thinkers off their reading lists,” as well as topics covering accountability, teacher termination and research, they said.

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