If you want to look at the reason why a school performs well, then look to the relationships that surround the people: student, teachers, parents, community, staff, and what might be one of the most underappreciated roles in public education – the principal.
The responsibility of a principal is hard to even describe, much less fathom, if you have not been in administration before. They are the face of a school, the sounding board of a community, and the instructional leaders.
When a principal is effective, great things happen in a school. When a principal is ineffective, all facets of a school can stagnate.
All effective principals understand that the most sacred dynamic in the school is the student-teacher relationship. They understand that education is a people centered endeavor, not a transaction. They understand that a single test does not define a person.
Yet, principals in North Carolina ranked 50th in the United States when it came to salary two years ago.
Out of 51.
So the powers that be in Raleigh did something about it. Maybe they finally realized that recruiting and properly compensating principals would be greatly enhanced if they had a competitive salary.
Therefore, they “reformed” it. The problem is that those lawmakers forgot that education is a people-centered avocation – not a production line manufacturing plant of knowledge dispensation.
As the venerable Lindsay Wagner (newly housed within the Public School Forum of NC) wrote last fall,
“North Carolina’s principals, whose salaries ranked 50th in the nation in 2016, watched this year as lawmakers changed how they are compensated, moving away from a salary schedule based on years of service and earned credentials to a so-called performance-based plan that relies on students’ growth measures (calculated off standardized test scores) and the size of the school to calculate pay” (https://www.ncforum.org/new-principal-pay-plan-could-result-in-steep-salary-reductions-for-veteran-principals/).
Yep, they really did something about it. As Wagner states,
“But the plan’s design has produced scenarios that result in some veteran principals conceivably earning as much as 30 percent less than what they earned on the old pay schedules—prompting some to consider early retirements.”
They made a terrible situation even worse.
This salt-infused Band-Aid of a reform is yet another example of a rough-shod method that lawmakers have used to overhaul a once thriving public school system into a shadow of its former self – all in the name of improving education.
If one reads the entirety of Wagner’s report, it becomes apparent that the new principal pay plan is long on political ideology and short of thoughtful research and reflection. Too many scenarios exist that could force many a principal to see stark reductions in salary based on arbitrary test scores. Veteran principals, which are becoming a rare breed in NC, would even be encouraged to retire early.
But one comment really stands out.
“Board member Tricia Willoughby repeatedly questioned who designed the principal pay plan.”
It seems no one really knows who came up with the new pay plan. And that is just further proof of the problem that truly exists in Raleigh.
The problem? Lawmakers and other bureaucrats forgot that education is centered around process and progress, not test scores. They forgot that growth means more than arbitrary proficiency. They forgot that educators collaborate and not compete.
It is telling when you read a state board member say,
“The General Assembly really needs a partner called DPI, who understands the implications of various legislative proposals and can prepare expert advice on the outcomes that might result.”
What that means is that there is no communication. No collaboration. No respect for process. No respect for growth.
A good principal could have told them that.
For a group of people who have so much power over public schools, they sure could use a good education in how schools really work.