A wicked problem facing education is how to sustain innovative educational practices when principals, assistant principals, and superintendents are constantly changing. This problem was highlighted by the New Media Consortium in their 2017 K-12 Report and my colleague Britainy and I have been looking at this problem from many angles in hopes of zeroing in on a possible solution.
At the heart of the issue, we found that administrators face stressful work conditions with long hours and a wide range of responsibilities (timetabling, media requests, parent communications, challenging students, special education, teacher disagreements, HR and labor contracts, etc.). These conditions lead to administrator burnout; good leaders often do not have the energy or motivation to remain in a school long enough to sustain innovative practices.
Explore our research further in this learning experience:
This problem is one that cannot be solved through one direct solution, but it is a worthy one to continue seeking to fix. In addition to easing the burden on administrators, we could investigate how high-quality school innovations in pedagogy could be more closely tied to the school’s mission and culture, better articulated to new leaders, and receive higher levels of buy-in from teachers, parents, and students to ensure their sustainability. Schools are catalysts for inquiry, with some succeeding better than others.
In future research, I would like to look at successful leadership models to assess which individual or school qualities may be contributing to a healthy, innovative, and sustainable school environment. I am also interested in learning more about administrator development programs and how professional development, coaching, and formal education programs are preparing teachers to become administrators- perhaps changes are needed in preparation programs.
This is a big problem in need of a big solution! If you would like to contribute your thoughts on the nature of this problem or contribute a new lens on a possible solution, comments are welcome below.