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Now that our book is published and on the shelves of various administrators, we have reached out to a few to get their perspectives. One such administrator is Antoinette Gutierrez, a high school principal in Southern California. Here’s what she had to say about Developing Instructional Leadership and the ideas presented in the book.
When I heard that Robert Crowe and Jane Kennedy had written another book, after having such success with them working with our site as our primary PD coaching company over the past 5 years, I knew I had to read it. I am currently a high school principal in San Bernardino, California and have been striving (as we all have) to increase the student outcomes via the instructional practices throughout our school. In addition, we are striving to reduce the initiative fatigue of our teachers by using a comprehensive framework that is research-based and not susceptible to changing verbiage overnight at the whim of new educational terminology or current jargon. They have provided a roadmap for how to do that in this book.
The first thing that stood out to me as I read the book was that they addressed the key leadership components, the decision-making process, the “why” behind the work as well as a concrete application on how to create an instructional plan. It is literally an instructional leadership manual. These “below the surface” pieces are critical to an effective and comprehensive plan that takes into consideration the broader district context and other initiatives that come into play.
As many leaders know, implementing anything with fidelity is difficult and we are in a highly political and bureaucratic system that is always looking for a “silver bullet” solution to improving student outcomes. Research has shown time and time again that it takes hard work on teacher practices that cannot be done with a short-cut. This book gives practical questions that encourage the strategic thinking around any good implementation that will reduce the resistance to it by the staff such as, “How does this initiative support the other work of the school?” (p. 28) or “How will this information be shared in as many ways as possible?” (p 55).
This book is also not just hypothetical. They have used the research from the meta-analysis of Hattie’s work as well as several other educational researchers to guide principals in providing the support needed for all learners. They have coached me personally using everything in this book. Bob, Jane, and the rest of the Elevated Achievement team have provided coaching services to assist me in moving our school from a flight school (where the trend was that students and families transferred out of my school to attend to a high performing school) to be a destination school. While the one-on-one support is extremely valuable with formulating and talking through your specific situation, this book can also serve as a stand-alone support. That is the beauty of this book.
At my high school, we have effectively used the concepts of this book to not only become a destination school but to shift our school’s culture from one of survival and the lowest performing high schools in the district to one of the top three schools with high academic expectations, more equity in our system, and progress of the supports we provide for our students. The framework aligning with the Accrediting Commission for Schools: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) makes it perfect for my high school and our conversations have shifted from blaming the students to analyzing the teacher behavior that supports students. This methodology has really impacted the level of our professional conversations and has become the guiding principle for our whole-school improvement.
I recommend every administrator or leader who is charged with leading instructional excellence read this book. For new administrators, it will help you plan things out and prevent some novice errors in any implementation. For experienced administrators, it is a handy reminder of the things we have to remember when we want to implement any kind of instructional program and it’s even helpful with other things you’d like to implement on your campus.
The Learning Brief
In this article you learned…
- A principal’s first-hand perspective about the book, Developing Instructional Leadership.
- How this book supports the principal’s work.
- Why other administrators will benefit from reading it.
Can you imagine building an environment full of motivated, engaged, and eager students who own their learning?