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As School Leaders Get Younger and More Diverse, SOE Program Adapts
February 8, 2017
By Jim Campbell

Annette Anderson, assistant dean for community schools, knows that successful schools need successful school leaders. As a former principal of a public school, she directs the School of Education’s Administration and Supervision program. In this interview, she discusses the school leaders program and how that role has changed.

Q. What is the goal of the school leaders program at Johns Hopkins?

Our goal is to ensure that school leaders are ready on day one to meet the demands of an ever-changing school. Since many of our candidates already have teaching or administrative experience, we want to build on their years of knowledge and expertise in the field to ensure that they develop the insight necessary to successfully tackle emerging leadership issues with confidence.

Q. What programs does SOE offer to prepare school leaders?

We offer two options:

  • An 18-credit Administration and Supervision certificate that is offered both in a face-to-face, as well as an online, format for those who already have classroom experience and a master’s degree, and
  • a  39-credit masters’ degree in Administration and Supervision

Both programs provide the necessary coursework for licensure. Courses include School Law, Effective Leadership, Supervision and Professional Development, Curriculum Theory and an Internship in Administration and Supervision.

Q. What makes our program different?

We are a world-renowned institution recognized as one of the nation’s leading schools of education. We offer online and face-to-face programs taught by leading experts in their fields who have extensive public school experience. Our program is well-known nationally for its flexibility. Our online programs allow students to work at home while pursuing credentialing. Students have the opportunity to combine their real-world experience with current research regarding best practices in areas such as leadership, curriculum and instruction, school law and technology.

Our international student composition in the online Administration and Supervision program is also a distinctive feature. We attract candidates from as far away as China, Mexico and Greece. Because of this international perspective on leadership, our students are exposed to cutting-edge thinking around innovation in leading 21st-century schools.

Q. Describe how the profile of today’s school leader compares to that of just over a generation ago?

The most recent profile in 2012 by the National Center for Education Statistics reported that the demographic of principals today skews younger, more female and more diverse than 25 years ago. For example, the percentage of female principals increased from 25 percent to 52 percent between 1987 and 2012. Also, the percentage of minority principals also increased but by a smaller number.

The other new trend is that principals are not staying on the job as long, either. The same study found there were 29 percent fewer experienced principals with 10 or more years on the job than in 1987. This suggests that new principals are starting in leadership with fewer years of teaching experience under their belt. Most significant, the average tenure for a principal in a school is now around four years. NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) data suggests that they leave entirely after seven years, either to move into central office positions, to other districts or out of the profession entirely. This makes it critically important for the School of Education, as preparers of future educational leaders, to make sure that our candidates graduate ready to step into the challenges of being a modern principal.

Q. What are some of the challenges school leaders face today?

Student populations are growing increasingly more diverse, budgets are shrinking, technology is advancing rapidly, high-stakes teacher evaluations are increasingly tying pay to performance, and there is constant pressure to improve student test scores.

Q. Can a good leader make much of a difference in a school’s success?

They can make a big difference. A study by three researchers Gregory Branch, Eric Hanushek and Steve Rivkin demonstrates just how much difference it can make. A highly effective principal can add as much as two to seven months of additional learning for a typical student in one academic year. They also found that a poor leader can lower learning by a similar amount. There are investments in principal training and development that are showing significant promise. The Wallace Foundation, for example, has invested deeply in its Principal Pipeline Initiative in six districts across the country to support the work of developing strong leaders for every school. We are excited to be working in partnership with one of them, Prince George’s County Public Schools, to develop a cohort of ready school leaders.

Q. The demand must be high for effective principals? 

Absolutely, there’s a very high demand to place strong leaders into our schools. Districts are desperate to find and retain qualified people who can provide capable leadership.

Q. What type of school leaders are we looking for?

We want candidates who bring a strong passion for leadership, equity and change. We want our candidates to be ready to do the hard work of leading so that we plan engaging, hands-on assignments that will encourage them to be reflective practitioners. Our program welcomes traditional educators, such as a classroom teachers, interested in advancing their careers, and nontraditional individuals, such as reading coaches, social workers or school counselors. We also welcome those who have been out of teaching for a while and are looking for a pathway to leadership. 

Q. Can you describe what you mean by pathway to leadership?

The Administration and Supervision credential prepares leaders for many more roles in a district beyond becoming a principal, and it is our role to help our candidates think about the multiple pathways into school leadership. Many of our former students often start in one ancillary leadership role, say as an instructional lead teacher, and begin to take on additional duties before finding themselves in formal administrative roles. We know that every person has a different path to leadership, and we are prepared to help each of our graduate students find their way.