Today’s schools are complex, dynamic organizations in which school leaders face many challenges. They must master finance, operations, curriculum, and discipline. They need to create a vision, foster a culture of achievement, build relationships among diverse groups, and use data to make decisions. They must be creative, flexible, visionary, passionate, and persistent. They must be great educators and effective business leaders. Indeed, its been proven again and again that effective leadership in schools is the second most impactful school variable behind effective teachers when it comes to student achievement.
Although the local, global, and societal conditions in which today’s schools operate are rapidly changing, the preparation of principals has remained largely static. An analysis of 31 principal preparation programs across the United States revealed that, “Preparation has not kept pace with changes in the larger world of schooling, leaving graduates of principal preparation programs ill-equipped for the challenges and opportunities posed by an era of accountability.”
That is precisely the problem that the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP) set out to solve by breaking with past practice in the development of school leaders. Rice University is the first and only institution in the nation to permit aspiring principals to receive a state certification to serve as a school leader through a business school.
REEP believes that preparing principals to run their schools like CEOs will enable them to solve problems, manage resources, and transform their schools. To instill this CEO mindset, we developed a creative and complex set of learning experiences for both current and aspiring leaders. In short, REEP is a new approach to education leadership development that equips school leaders to tackle new challenges in new ways. Watch this video that features principals talking about their REEP experience:
Without a doubt, REEP’s goals are both weighty and lofty. But is the new approach helping to develop effective leaders who make positive impacts in their schools?
With five cohorts of trained leaders working in Houston-area schools as of 2014, the opportunity existed to evaluate the impact that this strategy is having on these principals and their schools. A white paper that we released titled School Leaders as CEOs presents the first empirical evidence that this method of instilling a CEO mindset is enabling principals to lead change, lead people, drive results, build coalitions, and build the business. Through careful selection of the appropriate research methodology and rigorous analysis of the data, the study reveals the training education leaders like business leaders influenced priorities, decisions, and actions of participating principals, as well as the positive impacts they are making in critical areas that include teacher efficacy and motivation, school culture, school performance ratings, and student test scores.
For more on the preparation and development of principals, check out:
- Preparing Principals: Best Practices and Next Steps
- Next Gen Principal Prep: Blended, Personalized, Competency-based
- Preparing Principals: Consider the Adaptive Challenge
Lawrence Kohn, Ed.D, is the Director for Programs and Evaluation for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program at Rice University. An educator of thirty-three years, he is a former high school principal and English teacher.