Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen Tuesday announced a comprehensive initiative to transform the leadership of Tennessee’s schools by improving the preparation, retention, and development of school principals, said officials.
The Transforming School Leadership initiative leverages both state and private dollars to improve school leader preparation programs, reward and retain individuals effectively leading the state’s lowest performing schools, and provide networking opportunities and support for principals in rural communities.
“I firmly believe that one of the most important things we can do to help our schools succeed is make sure they are led by strong principals,” Governor Haslam said. “School leaders have a tough job, and as a state we need to support their dedication with resources that will ensure every teacher and student in Tennessee has a transformational principal.”
Governor Haslam has dedicated more than $3.5 million in the FY 2018-19 budget to advance this work. Additionally, the Ayers Foundation, Scarlett Family Foundation, and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education have invested a combined $600,000 to advance leader preparation.
The initiative consists of three elements designed to both address the pipeline of new leaders and well as the development of existing leaders:
Effective preparation of new school leaders
In conjunction with the State Board of Education, the Tennessee Department of Education is revising policy to ensure that the 19 traditional preparation programs within many of the state’s higher education institutions are held accountable for the performance of their graduates. To accelerate performance, this effort will provide funding for 50 fellowship positions to support high-quality preparation programs and 50 district partnership grants for leadership development.
Recruitment and retention of turnaround school leaders
In addition to training new leaders to fill the annual estimated 270 school leader vacancies, this effort will leverage the talents of top principals by incentivizing them to lead the state’s lowest-performing schools.
Development opportunities for rural school leaders
Principals in rural schools are often unable to take advantage of leadership development due to the cost of registration and travel and have few networking opportunities to learn from other school leaders. This program creates a professional network for 50 rural principals and scholarships for rural principals to attend state-led conferences and training opportunities.
“This proposal underscores the state’s commitment to excellent school leaders and reinforces our belief that school leaders are incredibly important,” Commissioner McQueen said. “No school can be successful without a successful principal, and every single child and teacher deserves to be in a school led by a highly effective leader.”
Each year, the state hires approximately 270 new principals across 1,819 public schools.