New Accountability For School Systems Calls For New Roles For Virginia’s
March 17, 2003--
Government policies that make educators accountable for student
performance have resulted in dramatic shifts in the responsibilities
of Virginia’s principals, superintendents and other school
leaders, according to an analysis headed by a group of University
of Virginia researchers.
leadership has always been a hallmark of successful schools, but
school leaders today have multi-faceted new roles to play, the research
newly published book, “Educational Leadership in a Age of
Accountability: The Virginia Experience,” was edited by U.Va.
Curry School of Education professors Daniel L. Duke, Pamela D. Tucker
and Walter F. Heinecke with University of Missouri professor Margaret
Grogan. It explores changes in Virginia’s schools as the result
of ambitious accountability plans calling for standards of learning,
statewide high-stakes tests and annual school performance report
new mission of schools “is now crystal clear -— get
students to achieve state-dictated passing scores on state-commissioned
tests” so schools will be accredited, said Tucker, an expert
on education ethics. Educators have a duty to follow the state-mandated
reforms, she said, but they also have a duty to demand the full
resources to meet the diverse needs of all students.
new systems have brought “a new understanding of what it means
to be an education leader,” said the researchers. School leaders
have always needed to promote high commitment from teachers, but
leadership today means “not just cheerleading” for test
scores, they said. More than ever, educators need a complete understanding
of how young people learn. And principals must free teachers to
focus on teaching and buffer them from “punitive aspects”
of the standards mandates.
addition to working with policymakers, teachers and students, school
leaders today must also win the support of parents, “who in
many cases harbor serious reservations about high-stakes tests.”
new demands require nimbleness and perhaps “more leadership
than any one individual can provide,” the researchers said.
One solution is building “distributed leadership” --
a network of relationships among educators all working to improve
student performance with collective accountability.
is just possible, the study concludes, that by removing ambiguity
the new accountability programs may actually make the job of educational
leadership easier. “The question that remains, of course,
is whether educational leaders will embrace this clarity or instead
long for a return to ambiguity.”
For additional information or interviews Daniel Duke, Pamela Tucker
and Walter Heinecke may be reached at U.Va.’s Curry School
of Education at (434) 924-3334.
Bob Brickhouse, (434) 924-6856