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In their just-released white paper, “The most interesting school district in America?: Douglas County and the Pursuit of Suburban Reform,” Hess and Eden showcase Douglas County as the district that “provides a stark counterpoint to the conventional reform narrative.”
School, system, and state leaders can do much more than they often realize but tend to be hindered by a “culture of can’t” in which urban legends, misinformation, and undue caution stop them from doing what they think will be best for students. What are some of these myths . . . and what’s the real story?
By encouraging a single-minded focus on instructional leadership, the training, socializing, and mentoring of school leaders has unwittingly fostered a culture of caged leadership.
Our schools can do a lot better. But to avoid lamenting unfulfilled expectations three more decades hence, it’s imperative that we get the leaders we need and then equip them to succeed. This doesn’t require superheroes, just smarts.
“Cage-Busting Leadership” (Harvard Education Press, February 2013) is a new book and consequently, a small, growing movement for educators trying to take a machete to administrative red tape and contracts that tend to paralyze district leaders from doing what’s best and right for the students.
I want to be clear about two things. First, I’m suggesting that almost the entire education leadership canon suffers from a giant blind spot. Second, I am not in any way, shape, or form dismissing the works that encourage instructional leadership. It has valuable things to say, but it only speaks to one half of the leadership equation. In ignoring the cage, leaders trap themselves within it.