Principal pressures rise: Does training need improvement?


Photo courtesy of Hannah Wagner

Hannah Wagner

In 2016, a study of 408 superintendents through The Wallace Foundation found 80 percent of those surveyed believed principal preparation programs needed a dramatic improvement.

Out of those surveyed, only 0.5 percent said they felt it needed no improvement.

Kent State’s Educational Administration – K-12 Leadership program requires training principals to do a series of inquiry-based projects in their courses in order to be better suited for education issues dealing with social movements.

Dr. Rosemary Gornik, program coordinator for Education Administration, K-12 Leadership and Cultural Foundations, said principals are living in an age of intense accountability. They have become the middle manager, she said, as leaders for children, teachers and parents in a growing political position.

“Instead of fixing the education of a principal, we encourage them to change the system themselves,” Gornik said. “We want to prepare leaders, not managers.”

Gornik said some may be surprised because they don’t know what a principal does daily, and students in the program can be caught off guard by the amount of pressure.

“As a teacher, you’re responsible for 20 students in your class, and as a principal, you’re responsible for 20 teachers who each have 20 students,” Gornik said.

Dennis Love, principal of Theodore Roosevelt High School, received his undergraduate degree in comprehensive social studies at Kent State, then went back to receive his masters in educational administration. He said it was a big jump moving into the principal position, and that one doesn’t really have a good grasp of the job until they’re actually doing it.

“The principal and administrative position are really hard and set up in a way so you’re not successful,” Love said. “Training is good prior too, but unless you’re living it and doing it simultaneously, then you forget a lot.”

Education Week, a publication on American educational issues, released an article this January discussing how pressure was increasing on higher education to improve their principal preparation programs. They stated many university-based programs have not evolved fast enough to give principal-candidates the academic training and practical experience.

Love said his experience as an assistant principal helped his transition to the principal position, and he thinks educational programs could benefit from collaborations with current, real-world practitioners.

“Most graduate classes listen to a teacher lecture,” Love said. “I would really like a cohort with a dozen principals to get the chance to discuss and reflect while practicing our craft.”

Paula Snyder, part-time faculty member in Kent State’s School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration, said she stays updated with changes in education and shares her practical experience from working at Orange City Schools to help give students a different perspective of the field.

“Kent State has a nice balance between research and practicality,” Snyder said. “Having a combination of professors who are full-time practitioners and professors who do research to have the different ends of the spectrum.”

Snyder teaches several courses in educational law and fundamentals of educational administration. The program is dynamic, she said, and helps prepare students for the role.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Gornik, she is ensuring students are receiving the information they need to be successful,” Snyder said. “We are constantly monitoring, adjusting and changing to continue to be one of the top programs in the state.”

Snyder said she is very proud of the university and believes it’s unique program helps change students perspectives on educational issues and leadership no matter what career path they take.

Hannah Wagner is the Education, Health and Human Services reporter, contact her at [email protected].