Educational leadership is a crucial ingredient of excellent schools and excellent programs. A memo in Harvard’s Lead for Literacy series parses what this means when it comes to ensuring children’s development as readers. (Read “What Leaders Need to Know and Do.”)
“While site leaders are eager to advance children’s literacy development, they often lack the deep understanding of literacy needed to improve instructional practice and children’s outcomes,” the memo states. “To ensure that reform results in improvement and not just change, leaders must be well educated on children’s literacy development and the specific needs of their populations.”
The memos are an initiative of the Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The research group is headed by Professor Nonie Lesaux, author of “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which we commissioned in 2010 and which informs the memos.
The amount of time leaders often spend on “managerial and operational work that is removed from day-to-day instruction” is one “common pitfall” that the memo cites. Rather, “educators are more effective and committed, and children’s literacy outcomes improve,” when leaders focus on literacy instruction.
The memo recommends that site leaders “develop a comprehensive knowledge about literacy” that includes understanding the knowledge-based and skills-based competencies young readers – and emerging readers – need. It recommends that leaders understand best practices and how to interpret assessments of children’s progress.
The memo advises leaders to “develop a comprehensive knowledge about your site’s literacy strengths and needs.” This includes using data to analyze trends and inform instruction.
“Improvements,” the memo states, “will occur at scale only when the leaders at each site understand the specifics of literacy development, interpret student literacy data, know their site’s instructional strengths and weaknesses, and can translate these understandings into corresponding guidance for educators.”