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By encouraging a single-minded focus on instructional leadership, the training, socializing, and mentoring of school leaders has unwittingly fostered a culture of caged leadership.
Our schools can do a lot better. But to avoid lamenting unfulfilled expectations three more decades hence, it’s imperative that we get the leaders we need and then equip them to succeed. This doesn’t require superheroes, just smarts.
“Cage-Busting Leadership” (Harvard Education Press, February 2013) is a new book and consequently, a small, growing movement for educators trying to take a machete to administrative red tape and contracts that tend to paralyze district leaders from doing what’s best and right for the students.
I want to be clear about two things. First, I’m suggesting that almost the entire education leadership canon suffers from a giant blind spot. Second, I am not in any way, shape, or form dismissing the works that encourage instructional leadership. It has valuable things to say, but it only speaks to one half of the leadership equation. In ignoring the cage, leaders trap themselves within it.
American school leaders have far more freedom to transform, reimagine, and invigorate teaching, learning, and schooling than is widely believed. Understanding teachers' contracts, hiring reform-minded lawyers, and engaging the advocacy, business, and philanthropic communities can help leaders combat the pervasive "culture of can't."
Data can be a powerful tool. But we must recognize that collecting data is not using data; that data are an input into judgment rather than a replacement for it; that data can inform but not resolve difficult questions of politics and values; and that we need better ways to measure what matters, rather than valuing those things we can measure.
When it comes to reforming American education, today’s would-be-reformers get it half right. They correctly argue that statutes, rules, regulations, and contracts make it hard for school and school-system leaders to drive improvement and, well, lead. They are wrong, however, to ignore a second truth: school officials have far more freedom to transform schooling than is widely believed.
As I argue in my new book, "Cage-Busting Leadership," school systems need leaders who are skilled in curriculum and instruction, but equally able to help schools use time, talent, tools and money in better, smarter ways. Asking educators to excel, even as schools make poor use of instructional time and staff, is a recipe for stagnation.
Join us for a discussion of the history and future of federal and state alcohol regulation and competition, followed by a reception with beer, wine, and spirits.
Join education scholars and practitioners for a discussion about the latest NCLB research and its implications for future education policy.
What shared commitments do we have as citizens and neighbors to care for one another? How can a proper ordering of America’s political economy enable the most people to have the best life? At this event, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a longtime champion of human rights causes, and AEI President Arthur Brooks will join Wallis in addressing these and other questions.