John O'Leary is a former GOVERNING contributor. He is co-author of "If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government."E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Any leader trying to drive change in education needs to understand that the status quo is not inevitable," says John Schnur, CEO of New Leaders for New Schools. "We have schools proving that children of all backgrounds can succeed when we adults get it right."
In this 5-minute innovation video, John Schnur shares the thinking behind his organization's award-winning approach. In short, the key is great school leadership. "We've never seen a low-performing school turnaround without a great principal," says Schnur.
How do you fix a dysfunctional school? It starts from the top, with strategies for training and mentoring great leaders, and preparing them for the daunting challenge of running a troubled public school.
Often times in low-performing schools, there are problemss with the staff, the school council and even parent groups that can work as obstacles to a new principal. A culture of despair and acceptance of poor results becomes the norm. But Schnur knows that all this can be changed because he's seen it happen. "A great principal finds a way to focus relentlessly on results," says Schnur. "That means attracting and retaining great teachers, creating a culture of high expectations and establishing accountability for results."
The lessons for revitalizing struggling schools apply to any public agency. Without a leader well prepared for the challenge, the results can be disappointing, but a strong leader can make a tremendous impact.