Leadership Drives Innovations: A Critical Element in Creating a Successful School

March 24, 2006

Why are some schools more successful at implementing new ideas, projects, or programs than others? While there are many factors responsible for successful schools, I've noticed that the critical ingredient for success is always leadership. By leadership, I mean the quality of someone who visibly champions and diffuses the innovation schoolwide or districtwide.

Most people think the leader is a superintendent, a district administrator, a program director, or a principal. However, I've learned that the leader often is a teacher, a student, or someone else respected by others. The leader is someone others will listen to and follow.

At the districts and schools where I work, the meaningful and effective use of technology is usually the result of this leader's ability to

  • communicate and share a common vision
  • provide timely technical support
  • provide relevant professional development
  • comprehend and interpret standards
  • assess programs.

The George Lucas Educational Foundation has showcased many examples of successful implementations of innovations resulting from effective leadership. I frequently use these examples to show my clients what it looks like when leadership is effective. Notice that each of these schools has a leader who possesses that special skill to get buy-in from faculty, parents, district administrators, school boards, and students:

Sherman Oaks Elementary School, which became the "neighborhood hub" for the community.Fullerton IV Elementary School, where mathematics became a focus and students' comprehension and calculations soared.Union City School District, New Jersey, which changed from a district failing students to one where students can succeed.

As leaders, our work is cut out for us! Through this blog, I will be sharing what I'm seeing at schools and districts -- strategies for developing a common vision, technical support and relevant standards-based professional development, and methods for assessing programs.

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