- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Eleven of the most popular college textbooks for training prospective school principals fail to focus on critical personnel decisions, such as firing bad teachers, a study says.

“Not one text provided a single positive reference to the possible benefit of removing an ineffective teacher,” says the study, conducted by Frederick M. Hess and Andrew P. Kelly of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

“This is cause for concern in an era where policymakers are obliging principals to close achievement gaps and to help ensure that all students have highly qualified teachers,” the study said.

Another study, also conducted by the AEI scholars, faulted 31 leading graduate education school courses for inadequate preparation of prospective principals, particularly in the area of faculty management to foster greater academic achievement among students.

Jon Schnur, founder and chief executive officer of New Leaders for New Schools in New York City, welcomed the studies yesterday, saying they “highlight the importance of closing an important gap in how our society currently prepares our principals to lead outstanding schools.”

Mr. Schnur, education adviser to Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration, said the role of school principals is being transformed.

“Principals used to be managers of the bureaucracy and the status quo,” he said. “We’re moving to a new principalship focused on leadership, change and high levels of achievement for every student. It’s a critical moment in history for universities and training programs to catch up and lead the way.”

The Hess-Kelly studies “should be read thoughtfully [by education leaders] to find where … they have it right,” said Thomas J. Lasley, dean of the school of education and allied professions at the University of Dayton in Ohio. “The goal is to create better programs.”

The 32-page AEI textbook study found that the 11 most widely used texts “focus on school culture and broad-brush discussion of student achievement,” but devote far less attention to teaching good management skills necessary for school principals in the era of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and increased academic accountability.

Mr. Hess described the texts as “relatively thin gruel in lieu of a deep or sophisticated grasp of management and leadership.”

“It seems [the texts] could do much more to help aspiring principals confront uncomfortable realities,” the study says. “For instance, general texts spend more than five times as much space bemoaning the lack of educational resources as they devoted to any aspect of removing ineffective teachers.”

Their findings will be published in the summer issue of Harvard University’s Education Next.

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