Developing Principals' Instructional Leadership: Systems of Support in Two Math in Common Districts

by Frances Reade; Rebecca Perry

Mar 1, 2018

Faced with the need to support deep shifts in instructional practice required for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics, the Math in Common districts have been reminded that effective site-based teacher professional learning requires strong site-level mathematics instructional leadership. In order to support meaningful change, principals need to understand what teachers are being asked to shift about their instruction and need to prioritize mathematics at their sites. Accordingly, districts must invest deeply in principals' learning around the mathematics standards. In this report, we share details about how two California districts are approaching professional development to help their principals become instructional leaders in mathematics. We spoke to district leaders and principals to understand how these professional learning programs are affecting principals and the schools and stakeholders with which they work.

Looking across the two districts' evolving programs, we identified seven common elements of their professional learning systems that seem to matter most for building administrators' instructional leadership capacity in math:

1. Math professional development is built into regular principals' meetings.

2. Math professional development is aligned across stakeholder groups.

3. Math professional development is designed as a safe collegial learning environment, while reinforcing districtwide and cross-role relationship- and community-building.

4. Math professional development highlights and centers around classroom instruction, increasing principals' exposure to specifics of enacted mathematics.

5. District observation tools offer principals and teachers a clear picture of the district's math vision and focus.

6. Math professional development creates opportunities to practice observing instruction and gathering evidence.

7. Principal professional development tied closely to classroom practice emphasizes support to teachers for improving their instruction.

While further research is required to understand the results of these professional development programs, we encourage stakeholders to consider offering similarly coherent and targeted support for principals to help them become effective site leaders in standards-aligned mathematics instruction.