A Tale of Two Towns – Leadership Malpractice

Mon, Nov 12, 2012

Distance Learning, Uncategorized

By Charles W. Bindig, Ed.D.

As an elementary school principal a number of years ago, my school was the unwitting victim of a neighboring school on the other side of town claiming district test achievement superiority. The school had received outstanding scores on the state achievement test, which was clearly the result of optimal school demographics. The school principal announced that excellent teaching had rendered their school as outstanding in student achievement. I refer to this result as the “two town” effect, or in other words, the triumph of the middle class neighborhood over low socio-economic neighborhood in terms of test score achievement. In this case, I was the principal of a school that was located in a very poor neighborhood of a larger predominately wealthy town that was in plain sight of the city of Manhattan. My school was 98% Caucasian, but the students came from a low-income background with a myriad of problems, including parental drug use. As a result the school always was a challenge for teachers to obtain outstanding test scores due to the dysfunctional nature of many of the families.
On the other side of town we had the high achieving school where the families enjoyed a high income, and the school had very high state test scores. Invariably when the annual state test scores were announced, the school marquee would announce “The Best School in Town”. Of course my parents would drive by this school and ask me why we could not be the best school in town. My parents actually believed that since the test scores at the other school were very high, the best teachers must be in that school. We, of course know that this was not the case. I could not say to my parents, the reason we had difficulty reaching their achievement level, was that many of our students came from troubled homes, and as a result, very little familial assistance was provided.
The point of this parable is to focus on the problem, that demographics do play a huge role in student achievement, and it is administrative malpractice not to understand or exploit this issue. I must indicate that the principal of the other school actually believed that her school was better, and did not understand the forces that contribute to increased student achievement. This is a central issue in the national debate about “No Child Left Behind” in that most leaders in education cannot identify the independent variables that dictate student success in public education. I have come to the conclusion that the problem in education is not necessarily poor teaching, but a lack of leadership, where administrators have problems solving academic deficits. Our schools will improve only when administrators are able to adequately identify achievement problems and provide appropriate solutions.

Dr. Bindig is a full time senior manager of educational outreach for American Public University System and an instructor for the School of Education. He holds an undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey and a masters degree in Musicology from Rutgers University. Dr. Bindig received an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University with a dual concentration in Educational Leadership and Instructional Technology. He has 32 years of experience as a public school teacher, principal and superintendent in the New Jersey public schools. Dr. Bindig has taught for several online universities as well as serving as a dissertation advisor at Nova Southeastern University. His main focus in educational research is student achievement gains facilitated via technology.

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