Bernice  Johnson  hung  up  the  phone.  She  had  just  told  the  parent  of  one  of  her  third  grade   students  that  it  was  8:30  a.m.-­‐-­‐  time  to  close  her  open  office  hours  reserved  for  parents  and   greet  the  students  as  they  entered  school  for  the  day.  She  laughed  to  herself,  remembering   how  only  last  year  she  would  joke  that  she  felt  like  she  walked  around  with  a  sign  around  her   neck  that  read:    “Complain  to  me.  The  principal  is  always  in!”  With  the  help  of  her  Instructional   Leadership  Director  (ILD),  Brian  Jones,  she  turned  her  calendar  upside  down.  Last  year,  her   calendar  had  her  in  classrooms,  and  otherwise  working  on  teacher  development,  a  small   fraction  of  each  month.  Now  she  spends  60%  of  her  time  each  week  on  activities  such  as   observing  the  quality  of  classroom  teaching,  talking  with  teachers  one-­‐on-­‐one  and  in  small   groups  about  the  observation  data  and  next  steps,  and  supporting  her  team  of  teacher  leaders   in  their  leadership  of  teacher  professional  learning  communities.  During  this  time,  she  also   strategizes  with  her  human  resources  case  manager  about  how  to  evolve  her  teaching  staff  so   that  all  her  teachers  are  the  right  fit  for  her  and  her  school.  She  works  with  ILD  Jones  on   improving  her  own  practice  in  supporting  teachers.  Principal  Johnson  said  she  hopes  to  increase   that  time  to  75%  within  the  next  year.  She  reflected:      
  Changing   my   calendar   was   tough.   For   years   I   have   been   putting   out   fires—responding   to   parents,   finding  out  where  is  that  facilities  request  I  put  in  months  ago,  you  know,  but  then  there  were  other   things   like   why   was   I   spending   90   minutes   a   day   or   more   on   cafeteria   and   recess?   Jones   asked   me   some  hard  questions  in  my  one-­‐on-­‐ones  like,  “Why  are  you  doing  that?  Who  else  can  be  on  the  yard   to  free  you  up  for  other  things  you  need  to  do  to  move  instruction  in  this  school.”  I  was  like,  “I  don’t   know.”   Which   really   bothered   me.   That’s   not   why   I   became   a   principal.   I   always   thought   I’d   be   the   principal  who  was  all  about  my  teachers.  But  then  the  phone  rings  and  fires  start.  One  thing  leads  to   another  and  you  are  in  your  office  dealing  with  this  one  student  all  day  or  whatever  else.  

Central  Office  Transformation  Case  Study  Series     Principal  Johnson  &  Her  Instructional  Leadership  Director          

    Johnson  went  on  to  explain  that  she  realized  she  had  to  create  a  better  team  at  her  school.   With  no  assistant  principal,  she  operated  as  though  she  were  a  one-­‐woman  show.  ILD  Jones   helped  her  build  a  team  so  she  could  focus  on  instruction.  Now,  the  school  secretary  fields   many  phone  calls,  helps  track  down  requisitions  in  the  central  office,  and  handles  much  of  the   budget  management.  The  secretary’s  role  as  budget  assistant  is  expanding  thanks  to  a  new  

service  provided  by  her  central  office  that  helps  schools  build  out  their  technological  and   staffing  infrastructure  for  budget  and  operational  management.  Principal  Johnson’s  teacher   leadership  team  meets  twice  a  month  to  review  various  school  data,  to  discuss  how  each   member  is  doing  with  their  leadership  of  their  professional  learning  communities,  and  to  help   her  monitor  the  quality  of  instruction.  With  the  help  of  a  neighborhood  non-­‐profit  organization,   screened  and  trained  parent  volunteers  supervise  during  recesses  and  lunch.     When  we  asked  her  to  describe  her  relationship  with  ILD  Jones,  Principal  Johnson  said:        
At  first  I  wasn’t  sure  about  Jones.  He  wasn’t  a  principal  himself  very  long.  But  I’ve  had  coaches   before,  you  know,  retired  principals,  that  kind  of  thing.  Jones  really  has  the  time  to  work  with  me  on   what  I  need  to  be  a  better  leader.  The  others  were  good  too  but  they  would  kind  of  drop  in  and  give   me  some  advice  now  and  then.  I  see  Jones  at  least  once  a  week  and  we  talk  on  the  phone  all  the   time.  I  don’t  think  that  man  sleeps.  He  really  understands  our  students.  He  keeps  us  focused  on   instruction,  instruction,  and  instruction!  He  keeps  me  focused  on  the  classrooms  and  the  kids,  which   is  his  focus  too.  I  never  thought  I’d  say  this  about  someone  from  downtown  but  I  look  forward  to  his   visits.  We  are  in  it  together.  

    ILD  Jones  and  Principal  Johnson  kicked  off  the  last  academic  year  with  a  series  of  intensive   meetings  focused  on  Johnson’s  use  of  evidence  to  inform  her  leadership.  Jones  brought  to  one   of  those  conversations  several  sources  of  evidence:    Johnson’s  teacher  evaluation  ratings,   students’  growth  scores  on  interim  and  end-­‐of-­‐year  assessments,  and  his  own  classroom   observations.  Johnson  had  rated  ninety  percent  of  her  teachers  at  the  top  of  the  teacher  rating   scale.  But  student  performance  data  revealed  that  only  half  of  her  students  were  reading  at   grade  level  and  that  student  achievement  in  mathematics  was  hovering  just  below  the   statewide  average  and  not  keeping  pace  with  growth  across  the  state.  Jones  and  Johnson  had   hard  conversations  in  those  one-­‐on-­‐one  meetings,  with  Jones  pressing  Johnson  to  consider  the   discrepancies  between  the  teacher  ratings  and  student  growth.  During  their  initial  classroom   observations,  which  they  conducted  together,  Jones  helped  Johnson  see  that  students  were   generally  compliant  but  not  learning  at  deep  levels.       Through  these  conversations,  Jones  and  Johnson  together  identified  sharpening  Johnson’s  skills   at  observing  mathematics  instruction  as  an  area  for  Johnson’s  growth  and  one  that  could  help   the  school  significantly  strengthen  the  quality  of  teaching  overall.  The  two  developed  a  shared   theory  of  action  that  if  they  could  strengthen  instruction  in  mathematics,  that  work  with   teachers  could  have  carry-­‐over  effects  to  other  subject  areas.  Jones  too  had  mathematics   content  knowledge  as  a  growth  area  for  himself  and  viewed  this  focus  as  an  opportunity  for  

him  to  build  his  own  expertise  in  the  process.  They  then  together  developed  and  implemented   what  Jones  called  a  “learning  plan”  to  put  that  focus  into  practice.  For  example,  following  the   learning  plan,  Jones,  Johnson,  and  a  district  math  coach  observed  mathematics  instruction   together  every  other  week.  Early  in  the  execution  of  the  plan,  the  coach  and  Jones  held   intensive  pre-­‐observation  discussions  with  Principal  Johnson,  talking  through  what  they   intended  to  model  such  as  checking  with  students  about  their  level  of  understanding  of  the  task   and  watching  how  the  teacher  used  questions  to  press  for  understanding.  From  these   conversations,  Johnson  developed  observation  rubrics  to  help  her  notice  and  study  the  moves   ILD  Jones  and  the  coach  made  in  classrooms  as  well  as  the  teacher  and  student  moves.  After   each  observation,  they  debriefed  and  discussed  next  steps  for  Jones  to  take  with  each  teacher.       Jones  helped  Principal  Johnson  develop  a  system  for  her  classroom  observation  data.  He  based   this  system  on  one  he  used  as  an  ILD  to  record  and  retrieve  observational  data  on  his  principals.   He  then  modeled  for  Johnson  how  to  bring  observation  data  into  conversations  with  teachers   and  how  to  use  that  evidence  to  develop  individual  learning  plans  for  each  teacher.  In  addition,   when  Jones  met  with  all  12  principals  of  his  in  their  monthly  learning  network  meetings,  he   strategically  grouped  Johnson  with  other  principals  more  ably  working  with  evidence  to  help   her  learn  from  her  peers.       This  year,  Jones  and  Principal  Johnson  decided  that  Johnson  was  ready  for  less  hands-­‐on   assistance  with  observations  and  feedback.  Now,  Jones  and  Johnson  conduct  observations   together  once  a  month.  Their  current  learning  plan  involves  more  intensive  supports  for   Johnson  on  how  she  leads  her  teacher  leaders  in  planning  professional  development  using   observation  and  other  data.  They  also  work  closely  with  Principal  Johnson’s  case  manager  from   the  Human  Resources  department.  This  new  position  within  the  district  works  in  tandem  with   the  ILDs.  While  the  ILDs  help  principals  develop  the  teachers  they  have,  the  HR  case  managers   assist  principals  with  the  strategic  movement  of  teachers  in  and  out  of  their  buildings.  The  HR   case  manager  helps  Principal  Johnson  ensure  she  has  the  right  teachers  given  her  schools’   needs,  her  capacity  for  teacher  development,  and  other  factors.     We  asked  ILD  Jones  how  he  manages  such  intensive,  hands-­‐on  work  with  his  principals  and  how   he  keeps  his  focus  on  principal  learning,  especially  when  he  also  juggles  the  district’s  new   principal  evaluation  system  that  includes  over  30  elements.  Jones  explained  that  his   superintendent  is  committed  to  each  ILD  having  a  manageable  number  of  principals.  With  12   principals,  he  could  spend  intensive  time  in  each  school  weekly,  though  sometimes  he  varied   his  allocation  of  time  depending  on  his  principals’  individual  learning  plans.  But,  Jones  added,   he  sometimes  has  to  “discipline  the  system.”  He  said,  “It’s  constant,  but  if  you  are  going  to  do  


this  work  you  have  to  be  able  to  say  ‘Sorry,  can’t  come  to  that  meeting,  be  on  that  task  force,   because  I’m  in  schools  with  my  principals  doing  the  work.’”     He  described  the  principal  evaluation  system  as  “very  imperfect”  and  reported:      
All  those  elements.  They  are  just  unworkable.  The  rubric  does  identify  important  areas  for  growth.   But  from  an  adult  learning  perspective,  you  want  to  focus  on  a  few  key  areas  that  we  [the  principal   and  I]  agree  on,  knowing  that  going  deep  on  those  will  have  broader  effects.  So  I  keep  my  principals’   focused  on  their  growth.  Just  doing  my  work  supporting  principals,  I  have  enough  data  to  fill  out  the   evaluation  paperwork.  The  principals  and  I  discuss  my  write  ups  and  their  scores.  But  by  then  we  are   so  deep  in  the  work  that  they  are  just  “yeah,  yeah.”  There’s  no  “gotcha”  since  we  are  talking  all  the   time  about  how  they  are  doing.  The  key  is  for  principals’  learning  to  drive  our  work  and  to  get  the   evaluation  done  along  the  way,  instead  of  the  other  way  around.  You  can’t  let  the  evaluation  drive   the  work.                          
Facilitator  Note:  This  case  study  has  been  developed  to  provide  an  example  of  a  principal  and  Instructional   Leadership  Director  working  at  a  relatively  high  level  of  effectiveness,  according  to  research  conducted  on   such  partnerships  by  the  director  and  staff  of  the  District  Leadership  Design  Lab,  located  at  the  University  of   Washington  College  of  Education.  This  case  study  is  a  composite  picture  of  an  ILD-­‐principal  relationship  based   on  multiple  research-­‐based  cases  in  which  researchers  found  increases  in  principals’  reported  and  observed   engagement  in  instructional  leadership.  We  recommend  facilitators  use  this  case  study  to  help  central  office   staff  and  others  deepen  their  understanding  of  such  topics  as:    (1)  The  role  of  ILDs  as  master  teachers  of   principal  instructional  leadership,  (2)  the  principal-­‐ILD  relationship  as  a  learning  partnership,  and  (3)  how  other   central  office  staff  support  the  principal-­‐ILD  relationship.             The  Central  Office  Transformation  Case  Study  Series  is  produced  by  the  District  Leadership  Design  Lab  at   the  University  of  Washington  (UW).  The  case,  Principal  Johnson  &  Her  Instructional  Leadership  Director,   was  authored  through  a  partnership  between  The  Lab  and  the  UW  Center  for  Educational  Leadership.   Suggested  citation:  District  Leadership  Design  Lab  &  The  Center  for  Educational  Leadership  (2013,  May   12).  Principal  Johnson  &  Her  Instructional  Leadership  Director,  Central  Office  Transformation  Case  Study   Series.  Seattle,  WA:  District  Leadership  Design  Lab.       4  

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