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.

State Action

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 environment.

Top School Principal Leadership Qualities
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 leadership qualities.

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 and staff.

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 study:

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 these?

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 other states?

The commission’s second meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., July 15, 2002, in the General Assembly Building in Richmond.


The Hon. Phillip A. Hamilton

For information, contact:

Kathleen G. Harris
Division of Legislative Services


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