Friday, September 3, 2010

The principal effect -- a footnote to the last post

When it comes to education reform, you can't just refer to the elephant in the room. It's pretty much elephants everywhere you look. There is hardly an aspect of the discussion where reformers don't have to ignore some obvious concern or objection.

The elephant of the moment is the effect that principals and other administrators have on the quality of schools. Anyone who has taught K through 12 can attest to the tremendous difference between teaching in a well-run and a badly-run school. Even the most experienced teacher will find it easier to manage classes, cover material, and keep students focused. All of those things help keep test scores up, as does the lower rate of burn out. For new teachers, the difference is even more dramatic.

On top of administrator quality, there is also the question of compatibility. In addition to facing all the normal managerial issues. teacher and and principal have to have compatible educational philosophies.

As we've mentioned more than once on this site, educational data is a thicket of confounding and aliasing issues. That thicket is particularly dense when you start looking at teachers and principals and, given the concerns we have about the research measuring the impact of teachers on test scores, I very much doubt we will ever know where the teacher effect stops and the principal effect starts.

No comments:

Post a Comment