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What’s a leader to do?

New ISLLC standards omit technology as a necessary component of school leadership

The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards (ISLLC) are now available. The seven standards, redrafted after the public comment period ended last fall, identify areas that school leaders should be able to demonstrate competency. An initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the final versions yield some significant changes in wording, but the spirit of the draft is largely upheld. For example, the draft version of the vision and mission standard stated leaders would “facilitate the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by all stakeholders.” In the final version, leaders “ensure the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a child-centered vision of high quality schooling that is shared by all members of the school community.”

Setting standards

Here’s my executive summary preview of the new standards:

  • Build a shared vision of student academic success and well-being;
  • Champion and support instruction and assessment that maximizes student learning and achievement;
  • Manage and develop staff members’ professional skills and practices in order to drive student learning and achievement;
  • Cultivate a caring and inclusive school community dedicated to student learning, academic success, and personal well-being of every student
  • Effectively coordinate resources, time, structures, and roles to build the instructional capacity of teachers and other staff;
  • Engage families and the outside community to promote and support student success; and
  • Administer and manage operations efficiently and effectively.

The Standard 4: Curriculum and Assessment descriptor uses my favorite (current) educational buzzword: robust. An educational leader promotes the academic success and personal well-being of every student by promoting robust and meaningful curricula and assessment programs. In describing my expectation for their action research proposals, I cued graduate leadership students that I was looking for robust language. The reaction I received was underwhelming, so resorted to the definition of “strong, healthy, vigorous, healthy in construction” Don’t get me wrong, I love robust, but it may be more effective to say “strong, healthy, vigorous, and healthy in construction.”

Standard 6: Professional Culture for Teachers and Staff also uses a favorite buzzword – professionally normed. The context is promoting communities of learning for professional staff. Again – I like the sound of promoting professionally-normed communities for teachers and other professional staff, I just happen to believe that emerging leaders might identify with professional earning groups with expectations and protocol.

So, did the CCSSO get it right? Each standard is written broadly to allow competencies to be linked in sub groups. There is a broad brush of action descriptors used in this document:

  • collaborate
  • collect
  • create
  • promote
  • monitor
  • act
  • recruit
  • develop
  • ensure
  • employ
  • protect
  • provide
  • maintain
  • emphasize
  • nurtures
  • facilitates
  • manages
  • crafts
  • enables
  • builds
  • advocates
  • understands
  • communicates
  • represents
  • safeguards
  • articulates
  • discerns
  • and adheres.

Seems like a full plate for aspiring and practicing leaderships. Should emerging school leaders strive to illuminate all of these descriptors and more? Are they doable for emerging leaders? The educational leadership graduate students I work with are struggling to balance the development of a myriad of stakeholders, develop confidence and imbue curricular leadership. I might just drive them out of the profession if I introduced the complexity of ISLLC at an inopportune time.

Lastly, I really am struck by the omission of a standalone technology standard. Referenced in two bullets (out of 86), I would offer that technology requires more emphasis in the areas of instructional capacity, instruction, curriculum and assessment, professional culture, and continuous school improvement. The argument could be made that technology is woven in several or all of the standards, but leadership is this area is paramount in coaching and developing long time staff members. Current, rising and emerging school leaders are handicapped by a lack of technology competency. For me, that’s not about being the educational technology specialist, it’s about possessing a level of competency that strengthens school leadership. As a professional leadership community, the ISLLC standards provide exemplars for all leaders to strive for robust leadership and developing professionally normed learning communities.

Joe Drolette is Head of School and director of teacher development at a private K-12 school in Central Massachusetts. He is an educator, researcher, writer and professor. You can contact him at drjoe.education@gmail.com.