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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Leadership in the 21st Century

Leadership in the 21st Century

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I have recently begun to ponder necessary skills sets that administrators should possess in order increase student achievement through innovation. What skills do you feel leaders in the 21st Century should possess in order to meet this objective? Are administrators adequately prepared to meet this challenge? If not how do we ensure that these skills are developed?

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Judie Haynes's picture
Judie Haynes
I am an author, professional development provider and retired ESL teacher

Administrators need to be true leaders, not just someone who went to school and got the necessary certifications. Society blames teachers when scores are low or their methods are antiquated. Some of this blame needs to fall on administrators. It is their job to work with teachers to help them improve. Some teachers should not have been tenured in the first place. It was an administrator who allowed that to happen.
A good leaders works with teachers in his/her school to raise standards.. If something is not working in a school , this is the administrator's responsibility. If test scores are low in a school or district, some of the blame for that should fall on the administration. Principals need to spend more time working with struggling teachers. Teacher leaders need more time to mentor their colleagues. Their schedules should not be so overloaded that they do not have time to make changes in the way they teach. Yes, it takes time to change and to learn new skills. Elementary teachers in particular need less student contact time.
A good leader shares decisions with his/her staff .Administrators sometimes decide on new school initiatives without teacher input. Teachers need to be part of change. They need to feel they have some control over what happens in their school. Too many decisions are made from the top down. I know one district that made a major change in the math and in the language arts curriculums over the same three years that affected nearly every teacher in the district.
A good leader makes people who work for him/her feel good about the job they are doing. They need to support their teachers. I was never a classroom teacher but feel very strongly that elementary classroom teachers are overloaded. The clerical work and record keeping that they are expected to complete has increased dramatically over the years. They have more responsibility in referral of students. They have more meetings. Some have large classes with many problem students. Others have difficult parents to contend with. Many do not have the materials that they need. Then on top of all that, they are expected to make changes in the way they teach, to implement sweeping new curriculum. Each lesson needs to be differentiated. The range of students ability in a single classroom is overwhelming.

Patrick Larkin's picture
Patrick Larkin
Assistant Superintendent for Learning, Burlington Public Schools (MA)

I think that the skills that administrators need are the same ones that our students need. They are the seven survival skills that Tony Wagner describes in The Global Achievement Gap 1. Critical Thinking/Problem Solving 2. Collaboration Across Networks and leading by influence 3. Agility and Adaptability 4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism 5. Effective oral and written communication 6. Accessing and Analyzing information 7. Curiousity and Imagination

If we don't have leaders with these skills I do not think that we can have schools where they are being fostered. I think that the ability to the collaborate is a key because leaders should not feel like they need to have all the answers. Instead, they need to ask the big questions and lead those in their schools and communities to create their own answers (meaning).

I do not think that most are adequately trained for this mainly because the education that most of received did not promote or foster these skills. How we change all this is the toughest question because we have leaders created by an outdated system trying to overcome (unlearn) their pasts to create a new direction.

Dr. M. Monte Tatom's picture
Dr. M. Monte Tatom
Director of iLearn Program and Associate Professor of Education at Freed-Hardeman University, Henderson, TN

My concern as I consider this topic is that am I doing everything that I can to ensure that the Master level and Ed. S. level students that are taking part in this administrative journey are truly being prepared for all facets of the 21st century; including having the best working knowledge of the technological skills that are required!

B Nevels's picture
B Nevels

I do agree that the system that is currently educating our school leaders are antiquated. We must engaged ourselves in self directed learning to stay abreast of current best practices and student-centered trends to connect with our students for relevant, meaningful experiences.

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