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Instructional leadership [PDF, 369K] has been called the catalyst for all the other changes in curriculum, human capacity, learning climate and parent engagement essential to school improvement (University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, 2006).
Instructional leaders tend the junction where vision and implementation, high expectations and evolving practice meet. The need for strong instructional leadership has never been greaterlargely because what is expected of students and teachers may never have been greater, when it comes to what is learned and how that learning is demonstrated.
The importance of instructional leaders to the success of all the other improvements States and school districts strive to make in schools demands a rethinking of who leads, what they do as leaders and how the other parts of our education system support them as they support teachers. The work is to ensure better interactions between leaders and teachers that always are focused on learning.
The Teacher and Leader Effectiveness/Standards and Assessments Community of Practice offers these ideas, information and tools provided to help States, districts and their partners to build instructional leadership for rigorous instruction.
Describing Instructional Leadership
If one thinks of the instructional leader as the principal or administrators at a school, that is a highly limited resource. Understood this way, we are tempted to think of a heroic leader that in rare cases exists, but is impossible to replicate at scale. The Reform Support Network describes instructional leadership as the work of setting direction; motivating and supporting staff toward goals; assessing progress; and driving continuous, collaborative organizational improvement that results in strong classroom practice and student achievement [PDF, 565K]. Instructional leaders can be principals, assistant principals, teacher leaders, coaches and central office staff that supervise and support school leaders and teachers.
Building Leadership for Rigorous Instruction
To be of greatest value to States and reflect the views of experts [PDF, 578K], the Reform Support Network focused its efforts on seven sets of policy and practice levers over which States wield significant influence. All are integral to deep, lasting changes in instructional leadership. They are:
Managing Instructional Leaders' Performance
Many States have begun promising efforts [PDF, 602K] to use these levers. The Reform Support Network has created a step-by-step guide [PDF, 2.9M] for others who want to determine how they can best work to improve instructional leadership. Learn more about how others have considered this topic here [PDF, 549K] and here [PDF, 602K].
About This Content
The ideas, information and tools provided here are the products of work undertaken by 19 States awarded Race to the Top grants that form the Community of Practice and the Reform Support Network (RSN), created with grant program funds to provide technical assistance and other expert aid to those States. RSN organized a Community of Practice convening called "Building Leadership for Rigorous Instruction," on October 1-2, 2012. The content of that convening was shaped by a meeting of experts held in June.