Thursday, August 23, 2007

Putting Some English on School Improvement.

Let's say you're the principal of a very successful elementary school. Staff is great. Kids are doing well. Things are generally great. Would you increase your current workload to help a similar, though less well-performing school? Leave your building for a part of each week? And take your assistant principal with you, too? (Note: there is a stipend for the effort.)

If you have a moment, fish the Aug. 1 issue of Education Week out of your reading pile. It's worth taking a glance at page 8 and their focus on world learning. Accessing the article online requires a free registration-- or use of your existing one -- but Lynn Olson's article ("In England, Top 'Heads' Oversee Two Schools at Once") gives another perspective on how principals in some successful schools in England are helping their colleagues (and the students) in struggling schools through a privately funded initiative. It's particularly intriguing in light of our own school improvement efforts at AWSP and in Washington state.

Here's the gist of it: High-performing head teachers -- the equivalent of American principals -- are paired with low-performing schools with similar characteristics. It's part of an initiative in England known as National Leaders in Education (NLE) /National Support Schools (NSS), operated by the National College for School Leadership, a private entity that reads more like a corporation than a traditional institution of higher education. You can read their goals and corporate plan online.

The scope of work apparently varies from school to school depending on the nature of the contract between the "NLEs", their school and the local school district.The program started in 2006 with 68 schools and a second cadre of 59 schools has been added. NLEs in the first cohort were paid approximately $10,000 for their work.

Lawrence Montagu, the head teacher at St. Peter's High School and Sixth Form in Gloucester, is one of the NLEs mentioned in the story. His perspective largely tracks with AWSP's own role in the state's school improvement efforts:
"You take into the school a vision of what's made your school successful," he said, "but do not tell them that's the way to do it. I think to transport one school to another is a recipe for disaster."
Take a read and let us know what you think. Should we broaden our efforts in Washington state and incorporate more of the NCSL program into ours? As a principal of a low-performing school, would you welcome this sort of help? As the principal of a high-performing school, ould you do this if you could?

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