Educational Leadership: Change is the Only Constant

The old saying goes that the most important factor (that a school system can impact)  in a child’s education is the teacher they have.  There is truth to that claim.  However, a rival factor for that first place distinction, and definitely a second place nod, is the principal of the child’s school.  Another way of putting this is: leadership matters greatly when it comes to the quality of educational experiences.   


But where as we can easily discern a teacher’s impact on students, through practices related to instruction, feedback, assessment, and  class culture, it may not be as apparent how  education leaders impact on students (note, by leader, I mean individuals in formal positions of leaders like superintendents, assistant superintendents, and principals).  One way to illuminate that murkiness is to focus on a word that both ignites hope and conjures distress - change.


Below, I have outlined four common change topics and practices that are related to those innovations. It is important to note that the conventional wisdom for the impact of change in education is that it will take 5 years to see substantial effects.  With that timeframe in mind, it will be important to approach school with the knowledge of where they are in their change implementation.  Knowing that sequence and plan will empower you to market products and services to a current or future phase and not to one that has already passed.


  • School/District Identity:  Schools rebrand themselves in many ways. Often this is done with a refinement in the school’s vision and mission statement.  For example, there is a trend to adopt a “Profile” or  “Portrait” of a graduate vision among schools across the country.  Likewise, school name changes from less inclusive to ones that are more culturally responsive involve a major change in branding.
  • Instructional/Assessment Shifts: Technology has changed the way we learn and teach.  As schools catch up with the existence of google as an information warehouse, they typically articulate a learning model that is based on inquiry, project based learning, and student engagement.  Likewise, assessments are less about multiple choice style exams and more about performance tasks and digitally enhanced assessments.
  • School/District Culture: Healthy school communities are good for students’ success.  In turn, leaders use surveys to get a pulse on staff, parent, and student sentiment.  Similarly, communicating with parents and businesses, providing promotions and discounts to school members, and supporting community based events (games, fundraisers, themed based evenings etc.) are other avenues that can support leaders with changes to culture. 
  • Infrastructure Innovations: Schools and districts have substantial infrastructures.  With the raise of transparency as a core value with schools these systems need to work well.  Likewise, updates to school bandwidth and web access hardware is an ongoing need.  Lastly, security is on the forefront of school expectations.  The result has been an increase in preventive and surveillance systems. 


Changes in school and district leadership happens often.  With each change to these formal position comes the potential for additional innovations.  What’s more, the new leader may wish to take the school or district down another path altogether.  In either scenario, opportunity presents itself and therefore being informed of changes in school leadership is imperative. 


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About the Author

Craig Perrier is the High School Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, VA. He is also an online adjunct professor of history and education for Northeastern University and Adjunct Professor of Education, at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. He has taught in public schools throughout the U.S. as well as in Brazil for six years. Craig maintains the blog The Global, History Educator and is the creator of the free online teacher resource U.S. History in a Global Context. You can follow him on twitter @CraigPerrier.

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