Nov 212016
 
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Cross-posted from eJewishPhilanthropy.

leadership-in-context

By Susan Kardos and Ellen Goldring

CASJE (the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education) recently released findings from the first phase of a study conducted by American Institute of Research (AIR). In Leadership in Context: The Conditions for Success of Jewish Day School Leaders, researchers offer valuable insight about specific leadership practices and the conditions that support them in Jewish day schools. As we discuss belowand as presented in Table 1 that summarizes these findings – the research highlights specific actions school leaders can take to be effective leaders and to have the most positive student outcomes:

  1. Vision: The school leader promotes a vision for Jewish living and learning.
  2. Staff: The school leader enables teachers’ learning and professional growth.
  3. Community: The school leader interacts with the school community to attend to the interests, priorities, and needs of students, teachers, parents, and external organizations.

In thevisiondomain, school leaders consistently articulate the Jewish vision of the school, encourage staff to promote it, and are role models who bring the vision to life. To do this effectively, school leaders first develop relationships with teachers. A relationship of trust, according to the study, helps leaders build a committed staff united by common understanding of school values and a shared purpose. Participation in professional development on topics related to Jewish studies also enables leaders to promote the school’s vision for Jewish living and learning.

In thestaffdomain, school leaders build teacher trust and promote collaboration, empower teachers to identify and implement new approaches to instruction, solicit feedback and suggestions from teachers, and provide access to professional development. Researchers found that spending fewer than three hours per week on planning curriculum; meeting with teachers and parents about instruction and learning; and observing teachers in their classrooms hampered leaders’ ability to support their teaching staff. Spending more than eight hours on each, however, did not significantly increase leader support of teachers’ growth.

In thecommunitydomain, school leaders are accessible to students, teachers, and parents; proactively initiate dialogue with students, teachers, and parents; and encourage and model a culture of open and honest communication. These behaviors can be practiced more easily when school leaders are part of a professional leadership team and when school leaders have collaborative relationships with other organizations. The school leadership teams help develop effective communication systems with parents and cultivate a caring school community. Developing relationships with Jewish community leaders and other Jewish organizations greatly benefit schools by expanding the curriculum and enhancing extra-curricular activities.

Thus, Phase 1 of this study offers a full set of findings and potential new and important implications for better understanding Jewish educational leadership in Jewish day schools. The study proposes that certain leadership practices and contextual factors that influence those practices – in the domains of vision, faculty, and community/collaboration – lead to specific school, teacher, and student outcomes in those domains to be further explored and tested in Phase 2 of the study.

By the end of Phase 2 of the 3-year study, the study will have produced databases and findings showing relationships between principal practices and student, teacher, and school outcomes. In addition to a set of briefs and a final report, the effort will produce a research-based and standards-aligned evaluation tool that measures the effectiveness of school leaders by providing a detailed assessment of a principal’s performance. This assessment will focus on learning-centered leadership behaviors that influence teachers, staff, and – most importantly – student achievement.

Susan Kardos is Senior Director of Strategy & Education Planning at The AVI CHAI Foundation, which provided funding for this research. Ellen Goldring is the Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Education Policy and Leadership, and Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations, Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, and is a member of the CASJE Board of Directors. View the full Leadership in Context report and an “At a Glance” brief of the key findings.

Table 1: Summary of Findings and Potential New/Important Implications

Leadership Behaviors Supporting Conditions What’s New or Important
VISION
Consistently articulates Jewish vision Relationship of trust with faculty The study identifies specific school conditions positively related to “Vision” behaviors. The behaviors and school conditions need to be assessed and nurtured. Absence or weakness in conditions may predict absence or weakness in behaviors or vice versa.
Encourages staff to articulate Jewish vision Engagement in professional development (PD) related to Jewish studies Highlights the importance for new leaders to learn/practice/pay attention to building trust relationships with faculty. New leaders in the study score low on this and, importantly, comprise 41% of the representative sample.
Acts as role model Highlights importance of professional development related to Jewish studies (JS), especially because only 20% of respondents reported participating JS related professional development.
Highlights need for better JS professional development experiences for school leaders.
Has implications for design and curriculum of Jewish day school leadership training, ongoing professional development and coaching.
FACULTY/STAFF
Builds teacher collaboration and trust Time set aside specifically for instructional leadership The study identifies specific instructional leadership behaviors to nurture and the specific school conditions positively related to these behaviors. Both the leadership behaviors and the conditions that support them need to be assessed and nurtured. Absence or weakness in conditions may predict absence or weakness in behaviors or vice versa.
Empowers teachers to identify and implement new approaches to instruction Autonomy to make decisions Leaders should have fewer administrative and teaching responsibilities and more focus on instructional leadership. Data suggests that spending fewer than 3 hours a week on each of the following tasks hampers leaders’ abilities to support teachers, but spending more than eight hours a week does not significantly increase leaders’ abilities to support teachers: curriculum planning and development, meeting with teachers and parents about learning and instruction concerns, and observing teachers in their classrooms.
Solicits feedback and suggestions from teachers Adequate facilities and education technology The study includes suggestions from the data of ways to manage time and make more room for instructional leadership.
Provides and enables access to professional development Highlights the importance of Head of School/Principal autonomy from board interference and Principal/education leader autonomy from Head of School interference in educational decision making.
Has implications for design and curriculum of Jewish day school leadership training, ongoing professional development and coaching.
Has implications for school leader assignment of responsibilities.
Has implication for Jewish day school board governance practices and resource allocation.
COMMUNITY/COLLABORATION
Is accessible to students, teachers, and parents Communication with parents The study identifies specific leadership behaviors to nurture and the specific school conditions positively related to these behaviors. Both the behaviors and the school conditions that support them need to be assessed and nurtured. Absence or weakness in conditions may predict absence or weakness in behaviors or vice versa.
Proactively initiates dialogue with students, teachers, and parents Existence and utilization of a leadership team Highlights the importance of parent relationships and communication.
Encourages and models a culture of open and honest communication Collaboration and partnerships with community and other external organizations Highlights the importance of setting aside sufficient time to reach out to families and solicit feedback from parents.
Highlights that school leader should communicate (a) an openness to feedback, (b) a sense of respect and fair treatment for all families, (c) school responsiveness to parent suggestions and requests regarding school wide policies, and (d) transparency about school areas for improvement and steps taken.
Has implications for school leader skill-building and assignment of responsibilities.