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Building up school leaders will benefit students

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 09, 2015 10:41 AM

When many parents think of which individual will impact their children most, they probably go to the teacher. These people are with students every day, providing them with information and assistance. However, teachers aren't the only important figures in schools: Principals also impact students' success. Principals support and build up their teachers, create a vision for the school and act as a guide through changes, such as implementing the Common Core State Standards.

Sound like a lot of responsibility? It is. In fact, the stress of leading a school has made the role of principal a challenging one. According to a study by the School Leaders Network, most new principals don't stay in their role after three years. The high churn rate has led districts to reevaluate their principal-training practices. 

Efforts to support school leaders
Teachers benefit greatly from training, and since the implementation of the Common Core, many have asked for additional support. However, principals can use continued professional development as well. Training programs may help principals learn to deal with the stress of the job and feel equipped to handle the large, day-to-day decisions their positions demand.

According to Education Week, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association for Elementary School Principals have together asked the federal government to reserve some Title II funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for principal training and support efforts. 

What professional development should look like
Ideally, professional development programs for principals should target the issues educators face regularly. From how to deal with Common Core changes to ways to support, develop and challenge teachers, principals need training that equips them for job-specific obstacles. Some principals even have their own idea of what others in their role need help learning.

"I think one of the big challenges first-year principals have is setting their priorities and managing their time," Mark J. White, an elementary school principal and the president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, told Education Week.  "There's all these things coming at you."

The more effective development programs available for principals, the better these individuals will be at learning the skills they need to not only excel in their jobs, but also feel they can succeed. Training could decrease principal turnover and instead provide schools with leaders who will see them through good and tough times.