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February 26, 2008


I think there are a couple of points concerning principals which aren't often discussed. One is that it has become a horrible job. Test scores, apply some educational trend, make parents happy, cover up your school's flaws for PR purposes, do what the administration tells you to do and take the heat when it is wrong, etc. etc. It just isn't a great job. It used to be the best job in education -- educational leader, come up with innovative ways to improve your school, inspire teachers and students.... I mean who would want that job now? So, because of this I think it often attracts two types of educators -- teachers who want out of the classroom and teachers who want more money. Those aren't the best qualifications for the job.

The other point is that I don't think principals are allowed much freedom to really do what they think is necessary. They always have to watch their back.

So I think usually the people who become principals are not the problem, but the way the job is now designed to not attract the best people. Of course, there are exceptions, but basically that is, in my opinion, the real problem.

And MY opinion (also a former teacher!) is that it's both!

But Portland does seems to have a truly outstanding record, not only at promoting the worst teachers to principals, but the worst principals to Area Directors. I remember well how one particularly good and effective area director, Vinh Nguyen, was run off the job by her incompetent, political-toady "superiors." I am sure not one of them was superior to her in any way.

So, while we're on the subject, let's not forget how PPS has arranged for the root-rot to reach ever higher!

Interesting post, Terry. I loved this quote "political opportunists, waffling bureaucrats, petty tyrants, educational faddists, or amiable drones?" ...I have worked for the worst and the best...also saw a few of the in betweeners at my kids' schools.. Fortunately I work for a principal who watches our backs...the backs of the teachers...I feel lucky! And he respects what we do every day in our classrooms and allows us to follow our own professional judgement when it comes to innane mandates from the district. A "leader of leaders.."

I've been fortunate, too, Marcia, in the principals I've worked with, especially in Hillsboro. That was before NCLB, testing mania, and all the talk about merit pay.

But even there politics played a huge role in who was selected to join the administrative ranks. There were certainly some "drones" in the district who rose through the administrative bureaucracy.

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