The school principal as democratic leader: A critique of the Wallace Foundation’s vision of the principalship
What is the role of the public school principal in the contemporary era? As conceived by many in educational policy-making and research today, the duty of the US school leader is to ensure that the district is, above all else, improving student achievement, defined by standards measured by high-stakes test results. Here, I examine and critique this contemporary conventional response to this question, as exemplified by the Wallace Foundation’s work, and sketch an alternative vision based on the principles and practices of democratic leadership traditions. While rarely writing directly about school leadership or the school administrator’s role, John Dewey’s linked notions of democracy, community and citizen participation are, with some updating, sorely needed as a counter to the narrowed conception of the principal role today. School leaders are community leaders, with important inward-facing and outward-facing responsibilities for communicating and building visions for good education with their constituencies inside and outside the school building.
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