Playmaker>Guestblogger: Jean Desravines

Last week New Leaders (an organization Bellwether works with) released a new report looking at what great principals do.  I asked Jean Desravines, the CEO of New Leaders, to pen a guest post about the report, his take is below:

By Jean Desravines

The first term of the Obama Administration heralded a new direction for education policy with a focus on two key areas to drive change in our nation’s schools: teacher effectiveness and new common core standards. In order to fully realize the transformational impact and effective implementation of these reforms, New Leaders believes it will be essential for the Obama administration to put school leadership front and center in its second term.

After more than a decade recruiting, selecting, developing and supporting more than 900 school leaders in urban communities across the United States, New Leaders knows the impact an exceptional school leader can have on dramatically increasing student achievement. Even 900 strong, we know that our New Leaders are only a sampling of the national impact that principals are making on students’ lives. Research confirms that principals account for up to 25 percent of a school’s impact on student achievement and that the difference between an average principal and an above-average principal can impact student achievement by as much as 20 percentage points (see, for instance, Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005).

We also know the impact a strong principal has on attracting, retaining and developing our best teachers who are leading excellent instruction in classrooms every day. Given that 97 percent of teachers recently surveyed by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation say that they would continue teaching if they had a strong principal, it is clear the importance leadership plays in keeping our most effective educators.

Last week we released, Playmakers: How Great Principals Build and Lead Great Teams of Teachers, examining the day-to-day actions that the most successful school leaders take to ensure great teaching and improve outcomes for kids.

At its core, Playmakers found that great principals amplified great teaching by working in and seamlessly integrating three essential areas: developing teachers; managing talent; and creating a great place to work.  Though the sequence of actions varied from school to school given the particular needs of the community, our research found clear evidence of overlap in actions taken by principals whose schools saw dramatic gains in student achievement as compared to principals who saw incremental gains.

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing this dramatic effect first hand. When I visit New Leader Claudia Aguirre in her Manhattan middle school, I see a leader who is not only passionate about her students, but about her teachers and staff as well. Dual Language Middle School, MS247 has a diverse student body – more than 90 percent of students live in poverty, more than 30 percent of students are English language learners and more than 25 percent are designated “special education.” This year, Claudia Aguirre and MS247 received an “A” in every category of their 2011-2012 Progress Report, the only school in her local district to do so.

It took unwavering belief and hard work for Claudia to make MS247 a great place to learn. When she became the principal, it had been known as a “dumping ground” for low-performing students, with many who arrived not fluent in English or Spanish. Claudia knew she had limited time to prepare her students for the rigors of high school and quickly identified increasing teacher effectiveness as one of her primary goals. Attracting and retaining great teachers has been her greatest challenge – she continues to hire six to eight new teachers to her staff every year. Despite this, Claudia builds a high-performing team of educators year after year by focusing on the three areas identified as essential in Playmakers: developing teachers, managing talent and creating a great place to work. She has a clear, concrete professional development plan and goal for the whole school and each teacher. She is relentless about hiring and retaining teachers who deeply believe that success is possible for every student at Dual Language Middle School, MS247 – and who make it their mission to help their kids realize their potential. And, she has built a positive, professional culture focused on continuous improvement, creating a workplace that encourages and empowers teachers to push and learn from one another.

As a result of Claudia’s focus, you can walk through the halls of Dual Language Middle School, MS247 and feel the energy, excitement and dedication of the students and teachers.

I want every school to have a principal as talented and effective as Claudia. That’s why in Playmakers, we make a number of recommendations, which speak to the very specific actions policymakers can take at the federal, state, and local levels to enable and encourage principals to amplify great teaching, and in turn, drive even stronger student achievement outcomes for our nation’s public school children.

Jean Desravines is CEO of New Leaders for New Schools.

10 Responses to “Playmaker>Guestblogger: Jean Desravines”

  1. john thompson Says:

    Real world, in the inner city the first three priorities must be discipline, discipline, and discipline. There are a lot of 4s, 5s, and 6s, but teacher quality means nothing until a principal finds a way to enforce discipline and attendance. In my experience, principals almost never get that power, so the rest is just chatter.

    By the way, gaining the right to enforce the rules is politics. But, leadership is politics. So, when a lucky principal is empowered, he or she gains a lot of political leverage with teachers.

  2. Attorney DC Says:

    Mr. Thompson: I heartily agree with you: Discipline is KEY for creating any real learning environment in low-income schools. As a former teacher, I know how difficult (impossible, really) it is to teach in a school where administrators do not assist teachers in enforcing consistent discipline standards. Even worse, I’ve witnessed more than one administrator undermine teachers who try to enforce basic behavior standards in their classrooms.

    We need to convince education policy gurus that maintaining discipline and behavior standards is key to helping low-income students achieve in schools. We can’t keep talking about “teacher quality” without giving teachers an environment in which they can teach.

  3. Richard V Reed Says:

    I whole heartedly agree with you Mr Thompson,Discipline is the key for any succes door to open. I personally believe that The teachers should be given some adminstring powers, so that they can enforce discipline in classrooms.

    And i also agree that every school should have a Talented and efficient principal to enable and encourage great teaching for stronger student achievement.

  4. bill jones Says:

    This article is an advertisement.

    Throw it out or use it as puppy paper.

    If I were to take the time to design a physics curriculum for the local Berkeley high school or spend time with its science teachers THAT would be worth more than the billions spent on edu-reform in the past 10 years.

    Those who CAN ADD VALUE have been excluded from this war. This entire mess is NOT about educating adolescents in math and science. This IS a culture war.

  5. jeffrey miller Says:

    Hey bill, notice how the New Leaders website UI looks amazingly like the new Windows 8 UI? I am so totally sure that’s a mere coincidence…

    On the Board of Directors of New Leaders, one find someone from Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs. ‘Nuff said.

  6. jeffrey miller Says:

    RE: Playmakers

    Love the sports allusions both in the name of whatever Playmakers is and in the font. See, that’s what gets professional educators and stakeholders geeked-out–make everything into a sports analogy or some kind of sports-themed idea and shazaaam! instant cred and followers! Because education is JUST LIKE football. Go Team!

    “the very specific actions policymakers can take” Golf clap. Well done. Go from generalities to the specifics of what your brand can offer. Try to offer value points. Good.

  7. bill jones Says:

    I “love your child” from my DC office two thousand miles away from his or her school. And I will advocate for your child for my six figure salary and protection from any consequences for my ideas or deeds.

    Now, that is a job I might consider!

  8. jeffrey miller Says:

    Um, it would seem eduwonk needs a new system to weed-out spam. Can Bellwether afford a more robust and interactive blog?

  9. PhillipMarlowe Says:

    Well, Learn and Earn knows not to accuse Andy or his reform friends of doing it for the money. That will get a rejoinder from Andy.

  10. PhillipMarlowe Says:

    The latest in the Fight Against Democracy by the professional education reform crowd:

    Booker Council mayhem draws social-media fire

    The fallout from Tuesday night’s Newark City Council meeting continues on social media. Mayor Cory Booker caused a near-riot Tuesday by stepping in at a City Council meeting to vote for political ally Shanique Davis Speight . Davis Speight was sworn in away from the angry crowd. The deal prevented outspoken critic John Sharpe James, son of former Mayor Sharpe James, from being appointed to the seat.

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