Jeff Meadors: Effective principals key to student, teacher success

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Nearly 2,000 Georgia educators, according to AJC data, retired Dec. 1, taking advantage of an eliminated pension benefit.

In a typical year, roughly 15 percent of this number leaves the field in December, but this exodus allows retirees to claim a one-time 3 percent increase in their base for yearly pension benefits being discontinued in January.

But why are teachers new to the field leaving? Studies since 2006 show they are leaving public teaching within four and a half to five years.

A fall 2012 "Fortune" magazine article suggests that workers don't quit companies; workers quit lousy leaders. Contributor Verne Harnish shares a survey showing 65 percent of workers prefer a new boss over a raise.

John Tierney writes last month in "The Atlantic" that most teachers leave today because "they hate their bosses."

Other reports show teacher satisfaction at a 20-year low. Teachers want strong leaders; strong leaders heavily influence student outcomes.

A compilation of research from The Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association, shares the following about the effect of leadership on student outcomes:

"Principals impact their students' outcomes, particularly at the most challenging schools. When looking at factors within a school, it is estimated that principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student achievement (Seashore-Louis, et al. 2010).

A highly effective principal can increase his or her students' scores up to 10 percentile points on standardized tests in just one year (Waters, Marzano and McNulty 2003)."

Locally, both Eastside High and Newton High realized double-digit percentile point increases in SAT math and reading, respectively. Alcovy High dropped double digits in both SAT math and reading.

Additionally, "Principals can also affect other student outcomes, including reducing student absences and suspensions, and improving graduation rates."

Fixing America's schools, then, starts with leadership, and numerical data, from graduation rates to SAT scores, is a function of building leadership.

In an address at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in May of this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the topic of school leadership as follows: "Great school leaders nurture, retain, and empower great teachers -- bad school leaders drive them off and are threatened by them."

In "Bad Leadership," Harvard academic and leadership guru Barbara Kellerman captures key qualities of poor leadership, arguing that bad leadership and bad followership go hand-in-hand.

Often, argues Kellerman, incompetent leaders are abetted by followers who are either unwilling or unable to effectively intervene. Kellerman describes leaders who lack the skill, will or both to create positive change as incompetent. Some lack practical, academic or emotional intelligence.

Another key ingredient of bad leadership, according to Kellerman? Corruption. Corrupt leaders will lie, cheat or steal and some followers get sucked into the game, all of them putting self-interest ahead of public interest.

Strong school leadership in each building is essential to school improvement. When we fail to ensure that it happens, then we fail teachers and students.

Send your thoughts on school leadership to Jeff Meadors at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com


georgianbornandbred 2 years, 11 months ago

Teachers should have the power to evaluate their principals. Right now, the evaluations are done by the superintendent, I believe. Guess how much face time the superintendent has with the principals? Almost none. Teachers, on the other hand, are affected drastically by what principals do yet have no say in giving feedback. That's a stupid system. It allows the principals to fly blind: enact rules and policies, hire and fire teachers, without ever having to be accountable to them. As a manager, I always built 360 degree evaluation systems. The school system does not. Stupid.


OnToday 2 years, 11 months ago

You are absolutely right. And any criticism or critique of a principal is met with harsh consequences, especially if nepotism comes into play. Principals are not infallible but our district leadership acts as if they are.


MamaTurd 2 years, 11 months ago

Ontoday makes good points. Did Laquanda Carpenter use taxpayer funded email on a personal suit? If so that violates BOE policy IFBG and the spouses also violated policy GAG. What others get away with this Mathews?????


Thishonky 2 years, 11 months ago

Why is it that this man is the only one that sees this I know that the whole board can't be. That blind!!! Or can they? Keep putting the truth out there because someone is bound to see it sooner or later. I'm very concerned.


OnToday 2 years, 11 months ago

Sometimes I think this man is the only thing keeping us from becoming Clayton County.


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