State Boards Collaborate to Strengthen School Leadership

By Don Long

A critical factor for strengthening educational leadership is collaboration between state boards of education and state education agencies. In a recent joint webinar between NASBE and New Leaders, Vic Lenz, vice president of the Missouri State Board of Education, and Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, emphasized how seamless collaboration between the two organizations was essential in developing their Missouri Leadership Development System. They also highlighted innovations in its design that support sustaining and improving it over time.

In March 2018, the Hawaii state board reviewed its Leadership Institute programs, including those for teacher induction and administrator development. As in Missouri, the Leadership Institute is a collaborative effort of the state board and the SEA. According to Hawaii’s ESSA plan, the institute “represents a new model of leadership development, one where we move away from the individual leader as authority to fully embrace the idea that everyone is a leader and everyone a learner.” The Leadership Institute includes many programs, one of which is the Hawaii Certification Institute for School Leaders, a two-year program that promotes improved performance of aspiring school leaders through coaching, aligned coursework, and clinical residency.

Other state boards have collaborated to foster systemic change and innovation in school leadership. Mindful of research that shows that principals account for a quarter of a school’s influence on student learning and that outstanding ones can improve student academic achievement by 20 percentage points, states and districts working together can help increase their leaders’ impact.

Over the past two years, Arkansas state board members have considered policy to support their Leader Excellence and Development System. The board adopted the nationally promulgated Professional Standards for Educational Leaders in 2016 to guide redesign of “all areas of leadership, including support for new principals, those in low-performing schools, and turnaround leaders” (Arkansas ESSA plan). In addition, the board recognized winners of the Arkansas Leadership Quest’s 2016–17 Micro-Credential Challenge in June 2017. Winning principals shared compelling stories of how they have used their professional development to affect their schools, teachers, and students and how the microcredential promoted effective learning.

In September 2016, members of the New York Board of Regents heard an update on the Wallace Foundation–sponsored Principal Preparation Project, which engages stakeholders in ongoing review and improvement not just of preparation programs but of the entire continuum of support, professional development, and evaluation for education leaders’ careers.

Don Long is NASBE’s director of teaching, leading, and learning. He can be reached at