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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Summer Prep for Back to School: Resources for School Leaders

Explore resources from Edutopia and the web that support school leaders -- including principals and other administrators -- as they guide school communities into a new school year.

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Strategies That Make a Difference

  • What Makes a Great School Leader? by Elena Aguilar (Edutopia, 2014)

    Aguilar highlights the three qualities she thinks most indicative of a great school leader: exhibiting visionary leadership, acting as a community builder, and demonstrating emotional intelligence.

  • A Teacher Perspective: Advice for Principals by Ben Johnson (Edutopia, 2013)

    Johnson offers his observations to help administrators support and build better relationships with teachers.

  • Successful School Leaders Know: People Come First by Camilla Benbow (Vanderbilt University, 2012)

    Benbow, the Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, discusses research on school leadership and five key responsibilities for school principals.

  • My Back to School Speech by Dean Shareski (Ideas and Thoughts, 2013)

    Shareski shares the words that he would most like to hear from leadership at the start of a new school year -- food for thought for school leaders mulling over their own new-school-year messaging.

  • Five Leadership Strategies for the New Year by Eric Sheniger (Edutopia, 2011)

    Sheninger, a former high school principal, presents his ideas on leadership during challenging times and offers up several strategies for back to school.

Explore strategies for maintaining balance, retaining focus on key priorities, managing limited time, and staying organized at the start of a busy school year:

Also, whether you’re a new or veteran administrator, these tip lists include useful advice and reminders:

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Engaging Families and Community

  • 9 Suggestions for the Welcome Back Letter From the Principal by Jonathan Martin (Connected Principals, 2012)

    Martin shares a few thoughts with principals about how to use welcome-back letters to communicate important messages to parents about educational philosophy, successes, next steps, teacher accomplishments, mission, and vision.

  • Plan a "Digital Family Summit" to Engage Students and Parents by Joe Mazza (Edutopia, 2012)

    Mazza recounts his visit to the Digital Family Summit and talks about how school leaders can plan similar events to engage families with school communities around questions of technology use and digital citizenship.

  • Cool Tools for Back to School by Carrie Jackson (NASSP’s Digital Leader, 2013)

    Jackson, a middle school principal, shares several ways to engage school communities and technology tools that can help.

  • Engaging ELL Families: Twenty Strategies for School Leaders (Colorin Colorado, 2011)

    As you head into a new school year, how can you welcome and engage ELL families? This guide offers 20 ideas for building a new ELL family engagement plan.

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Planning Purposeful Teacher Development

  • 8 Top Tips for Highly Effective PD by Vicki Davis (Edutopia, 2015)

    Among the top strategies for highly effective professional development are making it useful, making it relevant, and making sure that teachers start practicing it ASAP, writes Davis in this blog post featuring practical tips.

  • 10 Tips for Delivering Awesome Professional Development by Elena Aguilar (Edutopia, 2014)

    Having clear objectives and starting on time are some of the tips that one expert offers for creating effective professional development for teachers.

  • Administrators, Please Inspire at Back to School by Pernille Ripp (Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension, 2013)

    Ripp offers some suggestions to school leaders on how to inspire teachers at the start of a new year.

  • Flipping the Staff Meeting by Andrew Miller (ASCD In Service, 2013)

    Miller presents three easy steps for restructuring the staff meeting in order to meet teachers' professional learning goals. On a related note, you may also want to read Chris Wejr’s post from Connected Principals on Making Meetings Meaningful.

  • Back-to-School Professional Development: Love It or Leave It by Lisa Michelle Dabbs (SmartBlog on Education, 2012)

    Dabbs offers some advice to school leaders for bringing the Edcamp model of professional development into back-to-school staff sessions.

  • How Principals Can Grow Teacher Excellence by Mariko Nobori (Edutopia, 2011)

    At Cochrane Collegiate Academy, teachers credit their principal with helping them continually improve their practice through effective PD, ongoing support, and mutual trust. Also be sure to check out Edutopia’s Teacher Development Research Review for information about what the research says.

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Building School Culture and Climate

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Connected Digital Leadership

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