A Structural Scapegoat
Julia Steiny’s column yesterday on Rhode Island’s poor treatment of its school principals is worth a read:
In Massachusetts, principals can hire new faculty and make many of their own decisions. The Massachusetts 1993 Education Reform Act shifted much authority to the principals, with the understanding that they would delegate and share that authority with their staff. The quality of that state’s public education is now considered the best in the nation; empowering their school leaders certainly helped get them there.
In Rhode Island, the principal has the same mammoth responsibilities, but only nominal authority. Instead of allowing the principal and her staff to use their brains to solve problems, policymakers have prefabricated many school-level decisions and embedded them in labor/management contracts, state laws, Regents regulations and district policies. Principals don’t make decisions so much as interpret and implement the decisions made for them. The compliance-driven nature of their jobs crushes creative problem-solving.
Of course, school principals in all states, including Massachusetts, are overregulated to some degree. But Rhode Island principals are among the most heavily micromanaged, which is to say, they are asked to do their jobs with one hand tied behind their backs.