Customer Spotlight: How Three Georgia School Districts are Rethinking School Leadership Development

Posted by Andrea GronbergO

April 25, 2019

A consortium of three Georgia school districts and one local university chose Hoonuit as its partner in building an ambitious leader tracking system.


What makes a school great? Is it inspiring and collaborative educators, involved and informed parents, exciting new technology and teaching strategies, innovative course offerings, a data-driven culture — or some combination of all the above?


The truth is, no one variable is solely responsible for tipping the scales from good to great — but a balanced, interconnected combination of these variables certainly can. That’s why effective school leadership is so important. While principals and district administrators may not be in the classroom each and every day, they’re responsible for creating the conditions for new ideas, innovation, and collaboration to take root.


In fact, research has shown that successful schools can’t exist without effective leaders — a reality that contributed to the creation of The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Pipeline Initiative (UPPI). The UPPI is helping education agencies craft leader tracking systems (LTS) that gather data from principals and schools for use across a wide spectrum of principal pipeline planning and career development activities.


In October 2016, The Wallace Foundation awarded a Georgia-based consortium consisting of Albany State University (ASU), Dougherty County School System (DCSS), Pelham City Schools, and Calhoun County School Districts a $5.5 million grant to design its own LTS. Since then, representatives from each school district, three state education agencies, and several partner providers have been working collaboratively to develop an innovative principal preparation program to correct the disparities between Georgia’s high-performing urban schools and low-performing rural schools.


“We must identify and develop effective leaders, those who can transform schools in need of turn around,” explains DCSS Program Manager Dwala Nobles. That’s why, when the consortium was seeking a partner to provide and develop its LTS, it turned to Hoonuit.


Building a Leader Tracking System from the Ground Up


While the consortium has already established an exceptional approach to finding, developing, and supporting school leadership, steady growth and changes in the area’s economic makeup mean that the consortium must establish a more intentional plan to support the growth and development of new leaders moving forward. In order to create an effective LTS, the consortium has partnered with Hoonuit to design, develop, test, and deploy an intuitive, sustainable framework that effectively leverages data from across all three districts.


The LTS will provide data loading, storage, and reporting functionality to support four major processes: two at the district level and three at the university level. At the district level, the system will help schools recruit skilled administrators more quickly and effectively. “It is essential that we have administrators who are equipped to courageously serve as effective instructional leaders and organizational managers,” Nobles says. “A leader tracking system will allow our partner districts to drill down and select candidates who have specific experiences and qualifications that match the unique needs of a school community.”


In addition to helping schools and districts fill administrative vacancies, the system will also enable recruitment teams to determine whether an internal promotion or outside hire will be the most effective in a given role.


At the university level, the LTS will identify and vet candidates that are best suited to enroll in the ASU Educational Leadership Program. The post-master program is housed within the University’s Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership, and requires 30 to 36 semester hours of coursework in educational leadership and supervision, as well as 12 semester hours of graduate field experience.


Leadership training programs like ASU’s work hand-in-hand with an effective LTS: as the LTS collects and analyzes data to make precise recommendations, the training program provides the hands-on development opportunities, university credit, and relevant state certifications necessary to motivate and retain talented educators. Together, these two components act as a pipeline to fill Georgia’s schools with effective, prepared leaders.


Unlocking the Power of Data for School Leadership


Studies show that up to 25 percent of what is considered to be an educator’s “effectiveness” can actually be attributed to a strong match between worker, role, and environment. A good fit improves job performance, which in turn improves retention, which in turn benefits students. That’s why, when district leadership is making hiring decisions, it’s important for them to accurately predict fit.


To that end, Hoonuit has designed the consortium’s Leadership Tracking System with fit in mind. The LTS’s comprehensive data integration, transformation, and visualization capabilities allow district leadership to use timely, accurate, and relevant information to develop leadership profiles, create customized reports to indicate leadership readiness, and even identify future leadership needs. By integrating disparate data sources to unlock new insights, district leaders are empowered to make more informed hiring and promotion decisions than ever before.


Ultimately, more skilled school leaders can create more effective schools, which can ensure improved student outcomes. As Nobles puts it, “It is high-capacity leaders who collaborate with teachers and other professionals to create an environment for sustained student performance.”

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