Research suggests best leadership style to turn around failing schools
- Researchers studied 411 leaders of academies (schools or groups of schools) in the United Kingdom and analyzed their short- and longterm impact on their institutions as well as student achievement, finding the one type of leader who was effective in the long-term was least appreciated.
- For the Harvard Business Review, the group of researchers identify five types of leaders, which include "surgeons," who have a laser focus on test scores but can only get them up in the short-term before moving on to a new position; "soldiers," who trim finances and ask people to work harder but don’t improve test scores and cause a drop in morale; and "accountants," who are resourceful and revenue-focused and improve school finances but fail to improve test scores.
- "Philosophers," meanwhile, are champions of teaching and discuss best practices a lot but don’t make fundamental changes, while "architects" are unsung heroes who redesign schools with a holistic focus on setting up the structures to support longterm change — but while they foster lasting improvement, architects rarely get the credit, with praise falling instead on the short-term successes of surgeons or public popularity of philosophers.
While some elements of the education system in the U.K. are not transferrable, the leadership styles certainly are. In the United States, there are leaders who come in to transform schools and focus on test scores. They add extra time in the school day for tested subjects, asking teachers to do intensive test prep — but while scores may jump in the near-term, the improvement tops out. These leaders, who are often just in charge of the initial turnaround, leave their successors to handle the fallout of again-stagnant test scores and students who did not get a well-rounded education.
Leaders who can come in and develop a longterm vision are going to be the most successful all over the world. Key is creating a longterm vision based on the conditions on the ground. Copying and pasting a recipe for transformation doesn’t work unless the underlying causes of each issue are taken into account, and that can only be done by bringing everyone to the table early on.
- Harvard Business Review The One Type of Leader Who Can Turn Around a Failing School
- Education Dive What makes a good school principal?
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