Changes in federal education policies such as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 have prioritized both high academic standards and school accountability for student outcomes.
An emphasis on instructional leadership has developed in school districts across the country, with many teachers choosing to continue their education as a result.
An example of the Department of Education’s commitment to teacher leadership is Teach to Lead, a joint initiative with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The program aims to “advance student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership,” through “providing resources, facilitating stakeholder consultation, and encouraging professional collaborations to develop and amplify the work of teacher leaders,” according to the Department of Education.
Administrative Leadership Roles
Effective instructional leaders are closely involved in the curricular and instructional issues that affect student achievement. Those who play the most central roles in instructional leadership include:
- Principals and assistant principals
- Central office personnel (superintendents, curriculum coordinators, etc.)
- Instructional coaches
According to Dr. Mickey Blackwell, assistant professor at West Virginia State University, principals in particular are a critical component of successful instructional leadership:
“The position of principal is multi-faceted and the administrator is expected to be an expert in many areas of leadership. Community relations, facilities, accounting, and knowledge of personnel issues are all important, but the true driving purpose of public education is ensuring students are successfully attaining skills and knowledge. That is why the successful principal must be a leader and role model in curriculum, student learning and the art of teaching.”
Understanding instructional leadership is important for teachers who wish to make an impact in the lives of students by transitioning to administrative roles such as these.
How Administrators Lead
Instructional leadership focuses on making instructional quality a top priority in schools. Principals and other administrators utilize a wide variety of strategies to bring that vision to realization.
First, instructional leaders prioritize teaching and learning while balancing administration and management duties. They also focus on the continual alignment of curriculum, instruction, assessment and standards. One way to achieve this is by analyzing available performance data to make decisions regarding both policy and curriculum. This in turn can help guide instructional focus and drive teachers’ professional development.
Effective instructional leaders support teachers’ continued learning as well, by providing relevant training opportunities and skill development in areas like classroom STEM integration. They also leverage scientifically based reading research (SBRR) when selecting and implementing instructional materials.
According to the National Institute for Literacy, “Teachers can further strengthen their instruction and protect students’ valuable time in school by scientifically evaluating claims about teaching methods and recognizing quality research when they see it.”
Instructional leaders play a key role in ensuring that best practices like these are carried out within schools.
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One of the most important roles of instructional leaders in the educational system is acting as a resource for teachers. They can offer support in areas related to current trends and effective instructional practices, as well as issues relating to curriculum, pedagogical strategies and student assessment.
Becoming an Instructional Leader
As policymakers and other stakeholders recognize the importance of instructional leadership, there is increased demand for professionals in these roles.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, principals at the elementary, middle and high school level can expect to see 6 percent job growth through 2024. On average, education administrators earn around $90,000 per year, making instructional leadership a rewarding and ideal option for classroom teachers looking to expand their skills and advance in their careers.
West Virginia State University’s online Master of Education in Instructional Leadership and administrative licensure programs give educators the knowledge to become instructional leaders. With this valuable credential, educators can continue making an impact in students’ lives by improving the quality of teaching and learning in schools.