Wednesday, April 21, 2010

MCREL's 21 Leadership Responsibilities

Christina Niemczura
MCREL’s 21 Leadership Responsibilities

MCREL, which stands for Mid-continental Regional Education Laboratory consists of a groups of researchers who over the last 30 years have tried to determine what works in classrooms and in schools. One of their researches focused on the effects of principal leadership on student achievement. With 2,894 schools, 1.1 million students, and 14,000 teachers, it represents the largest sample of principals, teacher, and student achievement scores ever used to analyze the effects of educational leadership. This study has been able to define instructional leadership in terms of responsibilities and practices that if done well produce results, rather than in terms of personality traits or leadership styles.
Three major findings were found through this research. 1) The general effect of leadership can be quantified. Instructional leadership is correlated with student’s achievement. 2) They have identified 66 leadership practices embedded into 21 leadership responsibilities, each with statistically significant relationships to student achievement. 3) Teacher perceptions of principal leadership can either be correlated to higher student achievement or negatively correlated to student achievement. It can negatively be impacted when leaders concentrate on the wrong school and/ or classroom practices, or miscalculate the magnitude of the change they are attempting to implement.
MCREL identified 21 leadership responsibilities that are significantly associated with student achievement. Researchers have translated these results into a balanced leadership framework, which describes the knowledge, skills, strategies, and tools leaders need to positively impact student achievement.
Listed below are the 21 leadership responsibilities, followed by the extent to which the principal is involved:
1. Culture: Fosters shared beliefs and a sense of community and cooperation.
2. Order: Establishes a set of standard operating procedures and routines.
3. Discipline: Protects teachers from issues and influences that would detract from their teaching time and focus.
4. Resources: Provides teachers with materials and professional development necessary for the successful execution of their jobs.
5. Curriculum, instruction, and assessment: Is directly involved in the design and implementation of curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.
6. Focus: Establishes clear goals and keeps those goals in the forefront of the school's attention.
7. Knowledge of curriculum, instruction, assessment: Is knowledgeable about current curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.
8. Visibility: Has quality contact and interactions with teachers and students.
9. Contingent Rewards: Recognizes and rewards individual accomplishments.
10. Communication: Establishes strong lines of communication with teachers and among students.
11. Outreach: Is an advocate and spokesperson for the school to all stakeholders.
12. Input: Involves teachers in the design and implementation of important decisions and policies.
13. Affirmation: Recognizes and celebrates school accomplishments and acknowledges failures.
14. Relationship: Demonstrates an awareness of the personal aspects of teachers and staff.
15. Change agent: Is willing to and actively challenges the status quo.
16. Optimizer: Inspires and leads new and challenging innovations.
17. Ideals/beliefs: Communicates and operates from strong ideals and beliefs about schooling.
18. Monitors/evaluates: Monitors the effectiveness of school practices and their impact on student learning.
19. Flexibility: Adapts leadership behaviors to the needs of the current situation and is comfortable with dissent.
20. Situational awareness: Is aware of the details and undercurrents in the running of the school and uses this information to address current and potential problems.
21. Intellectual stimulation: Ensures that faculty and staff are aware of the most current theories and practices and makes the discussion of these a regular aspect of the school culture

MCREL takes these 21 responsibilities and uses them as guides for change. MCREL’s view of change states that “a change is defined by the implications it has for the people expected to implement it or those that will be impacted by it.” They use these responsibilities to decide if change is a first order change; one where it is consistent with current beliefs, can be carried out with existing skills, or implemented by others. A second order change is one where it is a break with the past, complex, implemented by stakeholders (NCLB), requires new skills. Each of the 21 responsibilties requires a first order change or second order change from the principal.
Although there is a plethora of information regarding leadership roles in order to enhance student achievement, their research and development on the topic of educational leadership continues. MCREL’s objective is to increase the accessibility, utility, and applicability of research for educational leaders. Researchers are currently collecting data from current principals so they can complete a factor analysis of the 21 leadership responsibilities. The goal is to correlate the factors to the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) and identify knowledge and skills critical to effective leadership that are not covered in these standards. Thus far these findings have led to the design of professional development programs that address the specific responsibilities and practices principals need in order to make the positive effect on achievement according to solid research. This research has also been helpful to state and local board members who approve administrator preparation, professional development and licensure since they now have the research to decide what preparation and licensure approval is needed. Without a doubt MCREL’s research will be a tool for people currently within, and anticipating being a part of the administrative field.

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