HJR 20/SJR 58: Commission to Review,
Study and Reform Educational Leadership
October 18, 2002
The commission's fourth
meeting featured presentations from representatives of the Achievable
Dream Urban School Learning and Leadership Institute in Newport News.
National data comparing the performance of minority and majority students
indicate an achievement gap of 15 to 40 percentage points on standardized
tests. Achievable Dream (AD) has virtually eliminated this performance
gap, with its students surpassing the Virginia student average on SOL
tests. In 2001, the gap between majority and minority students stood at
29 percent, and at about 10 percent between Achievable Dream students
(71 percent) and majority students (81 percent). In 2002, both Achievable
Dream students' and majority students' SOL performance stood
at 79 percent.
Achievable Dream began in 1992
as a summer tennis program for at-risk youth. In 1994, the program became
a school within a school, serving grades 3 through 5. Today, the program
is in its third year as a year-round school, with 750 students in grades
K8 at the Achievable Dream Academy, and 175 high school students
in comprehensive high schools. All participating students are eligible
for free or reduced-price lunch, and 96 percent are minority students.
Students enrolled in Achievable Dream demonstrate "multiple social
risk factors," such as free/reduced-lunch eligibility, school attendance
or discipline issues, and various housing and family concerns.
Representatives attribute the
success of Achievable Dream to solid leadership, a comprehensive plan,
and research-support educational strategies. More specifically: a longer
school day (8.5 hours); a year-round calendar (30 additional days); curriculum
alignment; Saturday sessions"by invitation only"designed
to assist youngsters who are not reading on grade level; pre- and post-testing
initiatives; data-driven decisions; ongoing professional development;
and the overall school climate and culture all support the program's
success. Also contributing are daily accountability for teachers, a social
skills training component, healthy living and conflict mediation efforts,
continuous character development, tennis, school uniforms, and additional
teacher assistants and tutors.
Private sector fundingtotaling
$500,000 from Achievable Dreamsupports the uniforms and additional
tutors; public school funds support the extended day initiative. The private
sector support results in nearly $1,800 additional per pupil expenditure
for AD students. The academy's school year begins on July 28, with
a two-week inter-session following the initial nine-week period. Pre-tests
in grades K8 help refine the focus of the inter-session remediation
and enrichment; a post-test indicates the effectiveness of the inter-session.
Disaggregated data is used throughout the school year to guide decision-making.
in the Newport News schools prompt students and parents to apply for admission
to the Achievable Dream program. The initial "target" population
is second grade students performing in the second and third quartiles
who are also on free and reduced-price lunch. Academy students in grades
K2 are area pupils, while grade 3 draws students from all over the
city. Parents sign a "contract" with Achievable Dream, indicating,
among other things, their pledge to provide study space at home. Adult
education, with child care, is available two nights a week through the
program. The academy boasts the highest PTA membership in the division,
with the school serving almost as a community center. High school students
are required to apply for at least 10 scholarships to pursue higher education.
An Urban Learning Center/Leadership
Institute is also associated with the Achievable Dream initiative. The
AD program does not experience a high turnover in teachers; the four losses
this past year were due to geographic relocations.
James Madison University's
program to train beginning school administrators integrates practical
projects and experiences and is aligned with the Standards of Accreditation
for principals as well as NCATE and ISLLC. While a variety of organizations
provide continuing education initiatives, there is little coordination
among the course offerings. Increased regional efforts, combining the
contributions of school divisions, higher education, and professional
organizations, might effectively address this concern.
Poor working conditions, lack
of prestige, and the pressures of accountability have reduced the school
administrator candidate pool. Alternative candidate sources are "at
best" a "minimal source of potential administrators" as
principals need significant teaching experience. Discussion focused on
principal "burn out" due to commitment to attend extracurricular
and interscholastic activities; the principal as "instructional leader"the
individual who is not necessarily a master teacher but who is responsible
for student performance and positive results; the need for multiple kinds
of expertise within the principal team; the development of a two-tiered
licensure system for principals and teachers that incorporates an internship;
standards for internships; and the distinction between a perceived shortage
of principals and a real shortage of qualified, willing candidates.
Two Virginia college professors
described their report, School Leadership in an Era of Accountability,
commissioned by CEPI and funded by SAELP for use by the commission and
the CEPI Task Force. Focusing on working conditions, professional preparation,
shortages, and professional development, the report noted a number of
ongoing and possible initiatives to address these increasing challenges.
Restructuring the principal's
role to allow the administrator to act as "CEO of Instruction"
and adding a "team" of associates to the principalship was cited,
as was increased authority for site-based decision-making. Also noted
were recognition programs, salary benchmarks, portable benefits, and incentives
for underserved areas. To address shortages, the report suggested increased
identification of talent within schools and school divisions, perhaps
using assessment centers to examine the "disposition and temperament
of prospective leaders before resources are invested in training";
financial sponsorship of candidates in education and internships or in
exchange for service; statewide recruitment efforts "for a broad
cross-section of educators"; incentive systems based on school improvement
rather than seniority; and the creation of a principal scholarship loan
To enhance professional preparation,
the report suggests redesigning programs to focus on teaching and learning
and to include mentored internships of six months to one year; expanding
the curriculum to include data analysis, school improvement, and student
assessment; the use of standards-based program evaluations and performance-based
assessments for program graduates; and multiple licensure routes, perhaps
incorporating the use of portfolios or demonstrated mentored performance
or creating a two-tiered system. The Commonwealth, having already adopted
the ISLLC standards, has already required some restructuring of university
Professional development might
be enhanced through clinical faculty or mentor initiatives for beginning
principals; one-on-one telephone coaching; the creation of leadership
academies and collaborative professional development councils; and an
improved support network offered by professional organizations as well
as school divisions.
The commission will develop
interim recommendations at its November meeting.
The Hon. Phillip A. Hamilton
For information, contact:
Kathleen G. Harris
Division of Legislative Services
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