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Requiring teaching experience in the class room for principals/administrators

October 20, 2010

After a conversation with Sabrina within the last week, I started thinking deeply about education policy in regards to state mandates on administrative certifications as well as local district requirements. Locations vary widely in requiring administrators to have a certain length of time teaching and to be deemed expert teachers before climbing the ranks of administration.

I thought about ballot initiatives, organizing, lobbying and various other means of enacting education policy to ensure that we prevent the ranks of leadership growing thicker with individuals who spent either little or no time in a classroom. As I pondered this, I remembered back a ways to a conversation with an administrator who suggested that I seek out an administrative certification program because this individual saw leadership qualities and charisma in me. I felt honored that I would be considered to have such potential, even though I had not been teaching a long time at that point. I also was confident that such a comment wasn’t being made flippantly or haphazardly. I was advised to seek out a program and to look into what the requirements were in terms of length of time teaching before becoming eligible for administrative certification. I wanted to spend more time teaching and would have felt wrong if I quickly jumped into administration and became another administrator deserving of criticism for lack of class room experience as a teacher. That seemed to be the closest flirtation I had with considering a career in administration (which in retrospect wasn’t that close).

With this experience in mind, I have sought out more information on the regulations and policies for administrative certification and advancement. The effect on leadership in school districts, especially struggling districts is of critical importance, being that far too many have foolishly embraced non-educators without experience as legitimate. Alabama as a state seems to be leading the way in some of its requirements for principals to achieve instructional mastery and leadership as  teachers before becoming administrators. Historically that seems like a return to a previous era of education where there seemed to be less shortcuts and principals were considered principal teachers and instructional leaders rather than business managerial leaders. As I continued to comb through various states requirements, I found plenty of disconcerting information about alternative principal license routes for non-educators. I wasn’t surprised but still was disappointed with the cottage industry growth of programs pushing non-educators into leadership positions.

Being that I’m still seeking education on this matter, I’m hoping we can share our thoughts and provide further information on this topic. I intend on putting some more time into writing and researching this concern so we can help turn some broad ideas into some more specific initiatives and collective actions.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2010 3:12 am

    By hosting Chinese teachers and from my visit to China last year I have learned that only master teachers can become principals in China. You first have to prove yourself in the classroom. You can tell right away by the interactions with their teachers and students Chinese administrators are at ease teaching. The ones I have hosted love taking over and helping out in our classrooms. You can see their smiles growing whenever this opportunity appears. You quickly learn that this leads to healthy respectful relationships between administrators and teachers. In China you prove yourself worthy to lead first. With the Chinese experience counts.

  2. markfriedman1 permalink
    October 21, 2010 6:16 am

    Jesse, thank you for the international update. It’s a sign of how far we have strayed from the importance of principals as master teachers that many other areas have embraced.

    Miriam, I saw many similiar programs that highly encouraged “non-educators with private industry/corporate experience being empowered to take leadership positions in education”. It was a stark reminder of where we are nationally in education.

    I keep asking though, how do we as teachers/parents/activists most effectively take control of these policies and redirect them in a more just, sensible direction?

  3. Cal permalink
    October 21, 2010 7:08 am

    Mark, Right on. The state of Iowa requires teaching at the level you seek to be an administrator. Want to be a secondary principal then teach five years at the secondary level. Want to be an elementary principal, then teach five years at the elementary level. A principal should have a thorough knowledge of instruction and how to improve instruction.

    If a person wants to simply run an operation then manage a 7-11, a fast food franchise, or a motel. They are challenging operations, but require no knowledge of instruction, curriculum, or assessment techniques or strategies. Cal

    BTW the first year Iowa required teaching at the level of administration the opportunities for women in school administration increased dramatically.

    • markfriedman1 permalink
      October 21, 2010 7:20 am

      Thank you Cal, very useful information. If you know any of the details of how that state education policy came about in Iowa please do share. I’m attempting to compile more examples of states that have better regulations and requirements in that vein. In attempting to learn more and translate that knowledge into action, I’m hoping to learn more about the narrative and process of how various states created such policy. I appreciate your help and knowledge.

  4. October 21, 2010 7:48 am

    The thing is, we’re trying to cram the complexity of the current el-hi enterprise into the successor to the one-room school house. The one-room school teacher didn’t need no stinkin principal. Up until the mid-1960’s school principals were all ex-teachers. High school principals were typically ex-athletic coaches. The coaches had the social skills to put out fires and keep the show on the road.

    We’re in a situation today in which schools do many things well that they get no credit for. They provide cheap baby-sitting in a safe environment. They feed kids. They’re the first responders for physical an mental health problems. They’re surrogate parents for many kids. They sort kids for “higher education” and for professional athletics.

    The only weakness is in instruction–in the basics. And that’s what parents, the citizenry, and the government think schools are there for.

    It’s foolish to task a teacher these days with the same “accountability” that was reasonable for the teacher in a one-room school house. School administrators these days do just that. They know and care little about instruction. They put out fires, ensure “compliance” and keep the show on the road.

    The resolution is not to look back, but to look forward. When home schoolers can do about as good an instructional job as paid professional personnel, that should tell us something. Instruction is no longer time or place sensitive, but no time or place is producing instructional accomplishments very reliably.

    More differentiation is needed.

  5. October 21, 2010 11:25 am

    How about requiring some teaching experience of any US Secretary of Education?

    • markfriedman1 permalink
      October 21, 2010 11:45 am

      Agree with you 100% Stephen. I’m thinking public pressure and a good ol fashioned critical mass turning out to demand this seems like a logical goal in getting this rolling.

    • October 21, 2010 11:50 am

      Sounds too much like RIGHT!

      Shame it is wishful thinking…:(

      • markfriedman1 permalink
        October 21, 2010 11:56 am

        I think many ideas and actions may seem like wishful thinking until we try to actualize them and try to make it happen. It’s the only way, because the other options include lying down and letting em run roughshod over us, which is what has been happening for a good period of time now. I don’t know bout y’all, but I’m not into waiting any longer!

      • October 22, 2010 1:21 pm

        Mr. Friedman,

        I wholeheartedly agree with you.

        As you know, selecting a US Sec. of Ed. is subjective at best; but it would be awesome if the POTUS select someone with ACTUAL experiences in education and teaching. In addition, the roadmap to change as you described will require a collective effort from the teachers themselves. The problem is, particularly in the South where I am from, most teachers are complacent, while knowingly allowing themselves to be screwed by the powers that be.

        It would be so awesome if teachers nationwide will mobilize and stand up.

    • sell permalink
      January 12, 2011 8:43 pm

      Reagan actually had a teacher momentarily as Sec of Ed, but he ended up quitting because he said Reagan was trying to eliminate the Dep of Ed and use him as a puppet.


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