From the Editor: Eyes on the Prize

By Kaylen Tucker
Principal, January/February 2016

“Is this what I would want for my own children?” That’s the question Jessica Johnson uses to reflect on her decision-making to ensure that it stays laser-focused on what is in the best interest of the students she serves. The Juneau, Wisconsin, principal also asks herself if new areas of focus align with the school’s main initiatives because, she says, “we need to protect what is already on our plates.” As principals across the nation implement new initiatives such as teacher evaluation and college- and career-ready standards, not to mention the plethora of other must-dos like arts-integration efforts and social-emotional well-being programs, it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize, with students at the forefront.

This issue of Principal shines a light on student-focused school leadership, beginning with an exploration of the concept of student voice. As Russel J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso write in their opening article on the topic, “After all the emails have been sent, all the data poured over, all the central office meetings attended…. The bottom-line questions will not be about test scores or budgets or adequate yearly progress, but about whether you have listened to, learned from, and led with your students.” Quaglia and Corso cite research that students who have a voice in their education are seven times more likely to be academically motivated. And that motivation translates into a more robust schooling experience and higher achievement. Delaware principal Jennifer Nauman echoes that sentiment, arguing that it’s easy for principals to operate in a vacuum. To “get outside” herself, Nauman reads educational publications and connects with other professionals, as well as talks with students. “If you don’t understand their interests and needs, how can you make decisions that are best for them?” she asks.

In addition to student voice, this issue explores student-centered topics such as bullying prevention, student-led conferences, character education programs, and homework alternatives. I hope that the various strategies, tools, and tips offered in this magazine issue will inspire you to start the New Year ever-more focused on staying student-centered.

—Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D.

How do you keep students at the center? Reflect on these five questions—culled from my professional learning network—to keep yourself on track.

  1. Is this what is best for students? Or is this a staff preference?
  2. Is this what I would want for my own child?
  3. How will this impact our students in the next five years?
  4. Is there a new, creative way to meet the need?
  5. Which strategies do research and data trends support?

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