What’s the principal’s job?

These days, principals are supposed to be “innovative and tough-minded instructional leaders, on-top-of-everything CEOs, and smooth political tacticians,” writes Larry Cuban. He includes a graphic.

“Managing, instructing, and politicking–are essential to the daily work of principals,” Cuban writes.

Researchers have observed elementary and secondary principals over the past century and documented time and again that most of their daily activities (at least half) are spent in administrative tasks. Managing a building, staff, children and youth, parents, central office officials, external agencies and companies doing business with the school consumes big chunks of time. And that is just to keep the place working and on course for teachers to teach and students to learn.

Reformers want principals to be instruction leaders, designing instruction, coaching teachers, visiting classrooms daily, teaching occasionally and evaluating teachers, Cuban writes. But when researchers shadowed 65 principals in Miami-Dade County, they found managerial tasks took most of the school day.  “What’s more, those principals who spend the most time on organizing and managing the instructional program have test scores and teacher and parental satisfaction results  that are higher than those principals who spend time coaching teachers and popping into classroom lessons.”

While many teachers are Trending Toward Reform, their lack of faith in principals’ ability to remove ineffective teachers hasn’t changed since 2007, writes Ed Sector’s Sarah Rosenberg in Same Old, Same Old: Principal (In)action.

Depending on the circumstance, an effective and proactive principal may initiate formal proceedings or quietly encourage the teacher to leave. But according to teachers, only 33% of principals will take one of these steps to dismiss an ineffective teacher.

. . . Teachers believe that principals often do nothing (16%), or transfer the teacher to another school in the “Dance of the Lemons” (13%.)

Principals need training to become effective evaluators, Rosenberg writes. And then they need the authority to recruit and retain the most effective teachers.