HJR 20/SJR 58: Commission to Review,
Study and Reform Educational Leadership
June 27, 2002
Adopted by the 2002 Session of
the General Assembly, HJR 29/SJR 58 established a two-year, 21-member
commission to "review, study and reform educational leadership." The General
Assembly assigned the commission a number of responsibilities, specifically,
to "(i) evaluate the policy environment for educational leadership; (ii)
propose necessary statutory amendments or changes based on research, surveys,
analysis and review of pertinent laws, guidelines, policies, regulations
and practices; (iii) communicate regularly to the Board of Education any
relevant findings with recommendations for needed regulatory action; and
(iv) provide a forum for educational leaders to report to the commission
the challenges of, and impact on, their work."
Education Leadership Nationwide
Education reform efforts across
the United States have not only strengthened accountability standards
for students, teachers, and schools; these measures have also challenged
school administrators and superintendents to master new academic standards,
enhance efforts to improve instructional quality, and anticipate needs
among poor-performing schools. Reports of pending retirements (an estimated
half of all superintendents are age 50 or older), increased turnovers,
and decreased numbers of applications have prompted education policymakers
to examine compensation, paid internships, training programs, and other
recruitment and retention strategies. Additional school administrator
recruitment and retention concerns include improving women and minority
representation, increasing compensation, enhancing the "manageability"
of the principalship through potential job reorganization; and providing
greater flexibility and autonomy.
A 10 to 20 percent increase in
the demand for principals nationwide is projected by 2005. While anticipated
retirements are seen as one contributing factor to this forecast, a 1998
survey of superintendents reporting a shortage of qualified principal
applicants cited insufficient compensation, job stress, long hours, and
societal concerns as probable deterrents to would-be principal applicants.
Also identified as a recruitment
challenge is a lack of identification and "grooming" of potential administrators
from among teachers and assistant principals; a 1998 survey indicated
that only about one-quarter of all school divisions nationwide have implemented
initiatives to attract and train potential candidates for the principalship.
Even when candidates are available, their respective preparation programs
may have been "disconnected from the daily realities and needs of schools,"
and licensure standards may be "uneven and inconsistent."
Response to these challenges
has varied across the country. Attractive compensation packages have been
explored in some school divisions, while others have pursued the mentoring,
internship, and apprenticeship initiatives. Also under review are administrator
preparation and licensure requirements. Equipping school administrators
to tackle the evolving issues through professional development opportunities
may also bolster retention efforts. Leadership "academies" have been developed
in half the states, providing a variety of learning opportunities for
principals, teachers, and superintendents.
Professional education organizations
have also explored ways to improve school leadership in recent years.
Recommendations explore professional development opportunities; leadership
standards; enhanced licensure and program accreditation standards; implementation
of more "portable" benefits programs; restructuring the principal’s duties
to enhance efficiency and appropriate delegation of authority; increased
compensation and recognition; consideration of nontraditional candidates
(noneducators) for the principalship; and increasing efforts to recruit
candidates that better reflect student demographics of student populations.
The reauthorization in 2001 of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) included provisions
addressing funding for professional development programs. As part of the
reauthorization, the U.S. Department of Education has recently invited
applications for grants for its School Leadership Program, supporting
innovative programs to recruit, train and mentor principals.
In January, 2002, the State Action
for Education Leadership Project (SAELP), another initiative of the CCSSO
in partnership with the Education Commission of the States (ECS), the
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Governors
Association (NGA), and the National Association of State Boards of Education,
has provided three-year grants of $250,000 each to 15 states—including
Virginia—to support research and policy development for the preparation
and support of education leadership. SAELP has also awarded 10 one-year
grants to individual school divisions in the recipient states; Fairfax
County Public Schools has received one such renewable grant. The SAELP
grants are supported by the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.
Virginia Commonwealth University’s
Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute (CEPI), on behalf of the Virginia
Department of Education, was awarded Virginia’s SAELP grant, and convened
three meetings of state education policymakers and stakeholders in 2001.
Discussions focused on the Commonwealth’s approach to school leadership,
the "candidate pool" and recruitment and retention issues, education and
in-service learning, licensure and program accreditation, and professional
practice conditions. The creation of the HJR 20/SJR 58 Commission was
a recommendation of Virginia’s SAELP consortium.
Dr. William C. Bosher, commission
member and executive director of the Commonwealth Education Policy Institute,
described the work of the SAELP grant consortium and various studies indicating
the vital role of the principal in student achievement and school performance.
Commission members were urged to consider principal preparation initiatives
that may focus on fewer, high-quality participants or particular specialities;
the use of state "academies" for education leaders; the use of rewards
and incentives—such as local, low-income housing—for school administrators;
alternative licensure and "nontraditional" candidates; school governance
and the appropriate delegation of administrative authority; recruitment
and "grooming" of potential candidates; and effective professional development
to sustain school administrators in a challenging, ever-changing educational
Top School Principal
Education World Survey
43 principals were to "identify
the ten traits they felt were the most essential traits of a strong
school leader and to rank them in order of importance from 1 (most
important) to 10 (least important of the ten)" from a list of 15
1.Has a stated vision for
the school and a plan to achieve that vision.
2.Clearly states goals
and expectations for students, staff, and parents.
3.Is visible — gets out
of the office; is seen all over school.
4.Is trustworthy and straight
with students and staff.
5.Helps develop leadership
skills in others.
6.Develops strong teachers;
cultivates good teaching practice.
7.Shows she or he is not
in charge alone; involves others.
8.Has a sense of humor.
9.Is a role model for students
10. Offers meaningful kindness
and kudos to staff and students.
Source: Education World,
From the Principal Files: Principals Identify Top Ten Leadership
Traits (September 22, 2000)
The commission’s broad study
directives afford great flexibility in the legal and policy issues it
deems significant for education leadership in the Commonwealth. In structuring
its study plan and pursuing its study directives, the commission may explore
the resources and findings of various school leadership and education
organizations, such as the Institute for Educational Leadership, the Southern
Regional Education Board, the Education Commission of the States, and
the CEPI consortium. In addition, the following issues may merit commission
1. Is there a real shortage of
qualified candidates for principals and superintendents in the Commonwealth?
How might this be documented?
2. What actions do Virginia school
divisions currently take to recruit and retain qualified education leaders?
How might these efforts be expanded or enhanced?
3. What are the specific job
needs and challenges identified by education leaders in Virginia? What
actions—legislative, fiscal, regulatory, or other—are appropriate to address
4. What statutory and regulatory
requirements, if any, impede the effectiveness of Virginia education leaders?
5. How might job responsibilities
for Virginia school principals and superintendents be revisited and restructured,
if appropriate, to improve educational leadership? What statutory or constitutional
concerns must be addressed?
6. What ongoing initiatives supporting
education leadership have proven effective in the Commonwealth and in
The commission’s second meeting
is scheduled for 2 p.m., July 15, 2002, in the General Assembly Building
The Hon. Phillip
Kathleen G. Harris
Division of Legislative Services
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