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Breakthrough Principals: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Stronger Schools

Breakthrough Principals: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Stronger Schools

Jean Desravines, Jaime Aquino, Benjamin Fenton

ISBN: 978-1-118-80100-0

Mar 2016, Jossey-Bass

352 pages



Bridge the achievement gap with proven strategies for student success

Breakthrough Principals debunks the myth of the 'superhero' principal by detailing the common actions and practices of leaders at our nation's fastest-gaining public schools. Based on the authors' Transformational Leadership Framework, which they developed through in-depth study of more than 100 high-gaining, high-poverty schools, the book distills findings into a practical, action-focused plan for diagnosing school needs and implementing structures, systems and practices that accelerate student achievement.

Brought to life by case studies of principals who have led dramatic gains in student achievement, the book is a how-to guide for increasing the quality of teaching and learning; improving school culture; attracting and supporting high-performing teachers; and involving parents and community to help students achieve. You'll learn how breakthrough principals make the school's mission a real part of both strategy and practice, and set up sustainable systems that support consistent, ongoing improvement. High-impact practices are organized into five broad categories: learning and teaching, school-wide culture, aligned staff, operations and systems, and personal leadership.

The primary job of school leadership is to help students succeed. It begins with first recognizing and prioritizing areas of need, then finding and implementing the most effective solutions. Whether you work in a turn around environment, or want to make a good school better, this book will give you a set of concrete practices—illustrated through examples of real principals in real schools—that have been proven to work.

  • Discover the primary drivers of student achievement
  • Work toward the school's vision in staffing, operations, and systems
  • Set the tone for all relationships and practices with good leadership

Closing the achievement gap is a major goal of educational leadership, and principals are forever searching for viable methods that help them better serve their students. Breakthrough Principals unveils the details behind the success stories from across the nation to provide a roadmap to transformative gains.

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PART ONE Diagnosing Your School’s Stages of Development 1


The Transformational Leadership Framework in Action 4

Why Focus on theWork of the Principal? 7

What Is the Transformational Leadership Framework? 8

The Structure of the Transformational Leadership Framework 9

Stages of School Development 11

How to Use This Book 12

CHAPTER ONE The Stages of School Development 15

Overview of Stages 16

How the Stages of the TLFWork 18

Moving through the Stages 20

Putting the Framework toWork 26

CHAPTER TWO Diagnosis and Action Planning 27

A Different Approach to School Planning 28

Case Study: The Four Steps of Planning 32

Step 1: Using Multiple Data Points to Diagnose School Practices 32

Step 2: Bringing the Outputs of the Diagnosis Together to Identify Priorities 38

Step 3: Set Goals, Identify Strategies, and Create an Action Plan 40

Step 4: Monitor and Adjust Action Plan 47

Next Steps 48

PART TWO The Transformational Leadership Framework 49

CHAPTER THREE Learning and Teaching 51

The Importance of Instructional Leadership 52

Lever 1: Aligned Curriculum 56

Lever 1: Action 1: Scope and Sequence 56

Lever 1: Action 2: Units of Study 61

Lever 2: Classroom Practices and Instruction 68

Instructional Strategies 70

Monitoring and Adjusting Strategies 75

Lever 3: Data 76

Lever 3: Action 1: Identifying Data Sources and Assessments 76

Lever 3: Action 2: Data Analysis and Action Planning 78

Lever 3: Action 3: Feedback on Progress 83

Lever 4: Student-Centered Differentiation 87

Lever 4: Action 1: Interventions and Accelerations 88

Next Steps 96

CHAPTER FOUR School Culture 99

Lever 1: Shared Mission and Values 102

Lever 1: Action 1: Vision, Mission, and Values 102

Lever 1: Action 2: Behavioral Expectations 109

Lever 1: Action 3: Adult and Student Efficacy 114

Lever 1: Action 4: Social-Emotional Learning Skills and Supports 120

Lever 2: Relationships 124

Advisories and Referrals 124

Lever 2: Action 1: Supportive Adult-Student Relationships 125

Lever 2: Action 2: Cultural Competency and Diversity 128

Lever 2: Action 3: Student Voice 136

Lever 3: Family and Community Engagement 140

Lever 3: Action 1: Involving Family and Community 141

Next Steps 143

CHAPTER FIVE Talent Management 145

Why Managing Talent Matters 147

Lever 1: Recruitment and Onboarding 150

Lever 1: Action 1: Recruitment 151

Lever 1: Action 2: Selection and Hiring 152

Lever 1: Action 3: Staff Assignment 158

Lever 1: Action 4: Induction 159

Lever 2: Instructional Leadership Team 162

Lever 2: Action 1: Instructional Leadership Team Roles, Expectations, and Supports 163

Lever 2: Action 2: Teacher Leadership 168

Lever 3: PerformanceMonitoring and Evaluation 174

Lever 3: Action 1: Performance Expectations 175

Lever 3: Action 2: Observation and Actionable Feedback 176

Lever 3: Actions 3 and 4: Monitoring Implementation and Performance Evaluation 180

Lever 4: Professional Learning and Collaboration 181

Lever 4: Action 1: Ongoing Professional Learning 184

Lever 4: Action 2: Collaborative Teacher Team Structures 186

Next Steps 190

CHAPTER SIX Planning and Operations 193

Lever 1: Goal Setting and Action Planning 197

Lever 2: Time Management 197

Lever 3: Budget 211

Lever 3: Action 1: Budget and Resources 211

Lever 3: Action 2: External Partnerships 217

Lever 3: Action 3: Facilities 218

Lever 4: Community and District Relations 221

Action 1: Stakeholder Communications and Engagement 222

Lever 4: Action 2 : District Relationships 224

Next Steps 225

CHAPTER SEVEN Personal Leadership 227

Lever 1: Belief-Based and Goal-Driven Leadership 232

Lever 2: Equity-Focused Leadership 237

Lever 3: Interpersonal Leadership 238

Be Transparent about Expectations and Treat Everyone with Respect 239

Create a Culture of Trust 240

Use Appropriate Facilitation and Communication Strategies for Every Situation 241

Lever 4: Adaptive Leadership 245

Identifying Challenges and Their Root Causes 245

Managing Change 246

Lever 5: Resilient Leadership 251

Next Steps 253

PART THREE A Role for Principal Supervisors and Coaches 255

CHAPTER EIGHT Principal Coaching Using the TLF 257

Building Alignment across the District 258

Prior to the Start of the Year: Supporting an Effective School Diagnosis 259

Setting Principal Goals 260

Planning Your Coaching Time 261

Targeted Visits andWalk-Throughs 261

Mid- and End-of-Year Reviews 262

Personal Leadership 263

District-Level Strategies 263

Learning and Teaching 264

Operations 265

Talent Management 265


APPENDIX The Principal’s Tool Kit 269