Tuesday, July 15, 2008

School Leadership that Works

"A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world."

School Leadership that Works by Robert Marzano, Timothy Waters, and Brian McNulty has actually been sitting on my bedside stand for the better part of this year. However, summer time is catch up time and, let's face it, anything by Marzano is worth reading. The meat of this book is in Part 2: Practical Applications. Marzano begins by discussing the 21 Responsibilities of the School Leader: Affirmation, Change Agent, Contingent Rewards, Communication, Culture, Discipline, Flexibility, Focus, Ideals/Beliefs, Input, Intellectual Stimulation, Involvement in and Knowledge of Curriculum/ Instruction/ Assessment, Monitoring/ Evaluating, Optimizer, Order, Outreach, Relationships, Resources, Situational Awareness, and Visibility. As I was reading through the exhaustive list, I was feeling a little sorry for my own principal. As remarkable as she is, no one person could actually cover all of those responsibilities. I was relieved to see that as Marzano recommended a plan, he was quick to say that no one person can exhibit all of the responsibilities so the first order of business for a school leader is to develop a strong leadership team and distribute some of the responsibilities throughout that team. All the responsibilities have to be covered but not all by a single person.

Marzano discusses two different types of change - one of continuous improvement and the other an actual reform. I was the most interested in the continuous improvement model, because I believe at Chets Creek we have already weathered the changes of a reform quite successfully. We are now managing and maintaining as we reach for a little bit better day-by-day. In the case of continuous improvement Marzano identifies 9 of the 21 responsibilities that must be taken on by the principal for establishing a purposeful community. The others 12 he believes can be distributed to the Leadership Team. Seems like this list would easily provide focus for any principal. What was interesting to me was a list of action steps for the Leadership Team to support the responsibilities of the principal. I think we are always wondering exactly what our responsibilities are and how we should be helping so this list gives each member of the Leadership Team a list for thought and self-assessment.

The book also offers a great framework of 39 questions to help Leadership Teams identify the "right work" to make sure they are working smart, and not just working hard. Marzano notes that it's not difficult to get people to do the work, but if it's not the "right work," it won't improve the bottom line - student achievement. Teachers can work very hard and not see the outcome that they expect. The key is in identifying the "right work" from the beginning. The final step in his plan is to make sure that the selected work and the behaviors of the leadership are aligned.

For new Leadership Teams, this is a road map to laying out a plan and for an established Leadership Team, like the one that I am a member, it's an opportunity to reassess and realign the work of the team so that they focus and move ahead with shared vision and action. It's really one of the first books I have read about leadership that is really aligned with what I am actually doing!


Susan T. Phillips said...

I have been searching for the perfect book for the team to study this year - I think I need look no further. Sounds great!

Melanie Holtsman said...

I'm behind on my summer reads - but this one sounds worth adding AND looks like my principal will be buying it for us. Yeah!