Building the capacity to lead

  • Mascall B
  • Rolheiser C
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As we all know, bringing about change in schools and school districts is hard work. Such change requires a focus on building "capacity," a term used widely in educational literature. Capacity describes the knowledge, skills and dispositions of individuals. Many educators now also discuss "school capacity," the elements that increase the chances that the work of a whole school will result in higher student achievement. Recent research indicates that school capacity is enhanced when there is a collaborative professional community that supports teachers' work together, when there is coherence among the various programs within the school, when there are appropriate resources to support the staff and when the principal provides the leadership needed to make all this effective. "District capacity," a more recent focus, describes the work done by a school district to support the building of school capacity. All three types of capacity-individual, school and district - are critical to improving learning opportunities for students. Principals in YRDSB focus on their own professional learning by participating in the district's professional development for the Literacy Collaborative with their school team. Principals are seen to be learners of literacy in the same way as are the literacy teacher and other teacher leaders. This approach has three benefits. First, the principal becomes an instructional leader and can speak knowledgeably with school staff about literacy practices. second, teachers get the message that the Literacy Collaborative is indeed an important initiative, because the principal attends the sessions with them. Third, principals and teachers build a commitment to shared leadership as they discuss, strategize and develop common understanding about literacy change during their co-learning at the sessions. This team attends two kinds of district-planned professional development sessions. "Leadership and Change" professional development days are facilitated by faculty from the University of Toronto and are designed to teach strategies for strengthening shared leadership at the school and for building capacity for change. In addition, district specialists run "Literacy Content" sessions, where teams develop plans for teaching literacy that are appropriate for students at their school. These sessions are supported by the district, which provides supply teachers to the school, and attendance is mandatory. The team must also make a commitment to collect data on the progress being made in literacy.

Author-supplied keywords

  • educational leadership
  • literacy programs
  • school boards
  • school districts

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  • B Mascall

  • C Rolheiser

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