school leadership

Principals matter — and Tennessee wants to do a better job of equipping them

The job of a principal has changed a lot over the last decade.

Instead of just hiring teachers, managing the building, and stepping in for the toughest discipline issues, today’s principals also serve as catalysts for the quality of classroom instruction. They not only hire teachers but they observe, evaluate and coach them.

That’s why Tennessee is launching a new initiative to get teachers with untapped leadership potential to the principal’s office, as well as support and develop principals who are already there.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re changing our preparation to meet those demands,” said Education Commissioner McQueen. “We want to have strong principals in every school to provide leadership that will create transformative learning experiences for all students.”

McQueen identified leadership development among her top priorities when she began leading the State Department of Education in 2015. Recognizing that principals play a big role in teacher effectiveness — and therefore student outcomes — she started the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance, a group of researchers, administrators and educators committed to improving school leadership across the state.

The new Principal Pipeline Partnership is an outgrowth of that alliance. Using newly available federal funding, it will underwrite partnerships among local districts, universities and nonprofit organizations to develop new training programs, and to improve existing ones.

Applications for partnerships are due May 15. Programs can each receive up to $125,000 in funding over four years, and will begin as soon as July.

State leaders aren’t sure how many grants they’ll award, but hope to have programs across Tennessee, especially serving rural areas.

The money will come under the federal rewrite of No Child Left Behind, called the Every Student Succeeds Act. Before, Title II money could only be used to train teachers in four academic core subjects. Now, it can be used to support principals, too.

McQueen said the state is committed to seeing the partnerships bloom, even if President Donald Trump’s administration goes through with its proposal to cut Title II altogether.

“We are still very hopeful that we have Title II funds, but even if we don’t, we will create pathways for this work,” she said.

Partnerships will include principal residencies, in which candidates train under experienced school leaders, as well as ways to support principals once they’ve graduated from programs.

About 45 percent of Tennessee principals are in their first four years on the job, making it especially important that development continues once a principal is hired, said Paul Fleming, the state’s assistant commissioner of teaching and learning.

“We know it’s really critical to provide support for beginning principals,” Fleming said. “I don’t know if there’s a school out there who’s effective without an effective principal.”

At least partnership model spearheaded by local districts already exists, and it’s been an inspiration to the State Department of Education. Since 2010, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville has worked with surrounding school systems to train principals through an intensive 15-month Leadership Academy, in which fellows spend four days a week in a school with a mentor principal, and one day in classes at the university.

Jim McIntyre understands the program’s importance from multiple perspectives. He served as superintendent of Knox County Schools from 2008 to 2016, and now oversees the Leadership Academy as the director of UT’s Center for Educational Leadership.

“I thought it was just wonderful and remarkable to know that there was a new cadre of educators every year who came through a very intensive experience that prepared them well for the rigors of leadership,” he said.

Detroit

Week in review: A raise for some Detroit teachers — no pay for others

PHOTO: John/Creative Commons

The situation at the Detroit charter school where teachers won’t get their summer paychecks is a reminder about the precarious finances that can affect both district and charter schools.

Charters don’t typically have historic debts like those that nearly drove the Detroit Public Schools into bankruptcy last year, but Michigan does not provide charter schools with money to buy or renovate their buildings. Unlike districts, charter schools can’t ask voters to approve tax hikes to pay for improvements. And when charter schools borrow money, that debt isn’t supported by the state or backed up by district taxpayers the way some school district debt is. So when a charter school shuts down and money stops coming from the state, there could be many people — that includes teachers — who simply won’t get paid.

Scroll down for more on that story as well as updates on the just-ratified teachers contract and the rest of the week’s Detroit schools news.

— Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Senior Detroit Correspondent

 

Paying teachers — or not

  • Detroit teachers who mailed in ballots this month have narrowly approved a new three-year contract in a vote of 515 to 474. “We certainly deserve more,” the union’s president said in a statement “but the package offers us the opportunity to build our local, move our school district forward and place students first.”
  • The new contract, which will now go to a state financial oversight board for approval, would raise teacher salaries by more than 7 percent over the next two years but would not increase wages enough to bring them back to where they were before pay cuts a few years ago.
  • Meanwhile, teachers at the shuttered Michigan Technical Academy charter school — which had a lower school in northwest Detroit and a middle school in Redford — were furious to learn that they won’t get money they’re owed for work they did during the school year. The money will instead go to pay off debts. More than 30 teachers are collectively owed more than $150,000.
  • The school is the second Detroit-area charter school to run into financial problems affecting teacher pay. Educators at the Taylor International Academy in Southfield say they haven’t been paid since their school shut down abruptly in early June. Taylor and MTA also have this in common: Both schools had their charter authorized by Central Michigan University.
  • Meanwhile, across the state, Michigan’s average teacher salary has dropped for the fifth year in a row, and many districts say they have trouble retaining high quality teachers because of low pay. The finding is included in a six-story series on state teacher pay from Michigan Radio that already has detractors.
  • An investor service says the controversial changes Michigan made to its pension system are a “positive” for the state.
  • A University of Michigan economist says substitute teachers are paid less in Michigan than other states — part of why the state has a sub shortage.
  • A suburban district got 952 applicants for a single teaching job but the district’s superintendent says that doesn’t mean there’s not a teacher shortage.

On the home front

In Detroit

Across the state

  • A judge has blocked the state from spending public money on private schools. A Catholic leader explains why he thinks private schools should be entitled to the money.
  • MIchigan has dumped its school ranking system in favor of a dashboard.
  • An advocate who wants schools to face tougher consequences for poor performance slammed Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent school reform efforts. “Parents are tougher on their kids when they don’t eat their vegetables than Detroit’s turnaround plan is with its hometown failure factories,” he wrote.
  • Many of the hurdles that make it difficult to provide enough early education in Detroit also exist in rural Michigan communities.
  • A New York writer says Betsy DeVos might be powerful and influential in Michigan but in Washington without her checkbook, she’s “like a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

In other news

money money money

New York City teachers get news they’ve been waiting for: how much money they’ll receive for classroom supplies

New York City teachers will each get $250 this year to spend on classroom supplies — more than they’ve ever gotten through the city’s reimbursement program before.

The city’s 2017-18 budget dramatically ramped up spending for the Teacher’s Choice program, a 30-year-old collaboration between the City Council and the United Federation of Teachers. More than $20 million will go the program this year.

On Thursday, the union texted its members with details about how the city’s budget will translate to their wallets. General education teachers will each get $250, reimbursable against expenses. (Educators who work in other areas get slightly less; teachers tell the union they spend far more.)

Money given to New York City teachers for classroom supplies, measured in dozens of tissue boxes.

The increase means that Teacher’s Choice has more than recovered from the recent recession. In 2007, teachers were getting $220 a year, but that number fell until the union and Council zeroed out the program in 2011 as part of a budget deal aimed at avoiding teacher layoffs. (Some teachers turned to crowdsourcing to buy classroom supplies.) As the city’s financial picture has improved, and as the union lobbied heavily for the program, the amount inched upwards annually.

“With this increase in funding for Teacher’s Choice, the City Council has sent us a clear message that they believe in our educators and support the work they are doing,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “At a time where we see public education under attack on a national level, Council members came through for our teachers and our students.”