PART II: Can We Rethink "Improving Instruction"?

Dr. Scott Seaman, Executive Director, AWSP
Nov 14, 2022

Part 2 of Improving Instruction Blog

Did I get your attention with my last blog, “Let’s Rethink Improving Instruction?” I hope so. It has conjured up a wide array of emotions, but most importantly, it stirred long-overdue discussions about a system that needs to be addressed. What system? The working conditions of our principals and assistant principals.

For starters, let me be clear. I believe in the power of improving instruction. I believe our system improved 12 years ago with the statewide implementation of TPEP. I believe teachers and principals have journeyed through powerful conversations to improve student outcomes. I believe that leaders across the state have worked diligently to create systems to support improving instruction and cycles of feedback. 

I also believe that our principals and assistant principals assigned to the teacher evaluation process believe wholeheartedly in the power of being in the classroom and engaging in an ongoing relationship of two-way professional growth. I believe our members would love to be able to engage more in such relationships and conversations.

The point I was trying to make in my previous blog was not to minimize the decade-plus of work by leaders throughout the state who’ve developed and nurtured TPEP systems. It was not to say classroom observations and clinical supervision don’t work. It was not to say that principals don’t want to be in classrooms; it was simply to say that they often can't under their current contexts, expectations, and working conditions. 

Why can’t they? Because during the last fifteen years of adding more to their “Instructional Leadership” plates, we’ve done nothing to reduce the expectations on their “Management” plates. The workload, expectations, and working conditions have grown to be exponentially unrealistic, untenable, and frankly, driving great leaders out of the profession. That was my point, that is my fear, and that is our reality.

Something has to change in what we expect of our leaders, how we support our leaders, or perhaps, how we even define our leaders. Under the current circumstances in our schools, is it fair or realistic to expect our leaders to both “manage the building” and “lead instructional improvements?” Is it time for us to reconsider those expectations? Is it time to consider preparing different tracks for future school leaders? Is it time for us to consider new roles in school leadership? Is it time for us to rethink how we improve learning?

We can’t sit back and do nothing. The point of my blog was to raise awareness of the elephant in the room. Twelve years ago, there was no Snapchat or TikTok, Instagram had just started, and Facebook and Twitter were much more about social networking than what’s become social media today. Twelve years ago, vaping wasn’t as rampant and widespread as it is today. Twelve years ago, there were fewer unfunded mandates, and school principals didn’t feel the realities of their job 24/7 like many do today. If we want principals and assistant principals to be the “Instructional Leaders” as originally designed, then we must address the laundry list of barriers that prevent their ability to consistently and meaningfully get into classrooms. We must address their working conditions.

I’m hoping we can all come together to think differently about what we expect of our school leaders. Let’s stop pretending they can do it all and instead focus on improving their working conditions and expectations so they can be the best for their students, schools, and communities. We have incredibly intelligent school leaders across the entire system, so let’s come together to rethink how we, as a system, are improving learning.

Want some ideas?

  • Reduce the number of “direct reports” required of principals (the number of people they are required to evaluate).

  • Increase the prototypical funding model generating more administrators.

  • Promote creative options for Focused Evaluations.

  • Work with Higher Education to create two tracks for school leadership: Principal as Instructional Leader and Principal as Organizational Leader.

  • Work with the WEA to pilot some Peer to Peer professional growth models.

  • Reduce the amount of state and district reporting/administrative duties required of principals.

  • Increase protections, improve due process rights, and provide authority for principals to address poor instruction.

  • Create a workgroup of principals from around the state to address state and district student discipline policies.

  • Other ideas?


  • Improving Instruction
  • TPEP
  • learning
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