The Education Leaders Role in Improving Digital Learning
Increased attention at both the local and national levels on improving student learning has resulted in a growing expectation in some states and districts for principals to be effective digital leaders. Consider these statistics: nearly 7,000 students drop out of U.S. high schools every day and, every year approximately 1.2 million teenagers leave the public school system without a diploma or an adequate education. There are 2,000 high schools in America in which less than 60% of students graduate within four years after entering ninth grade.
The situation is not much brighter for students who do earn a high school diploma, and enter a two –year or four-year institutions. In community colleges, approximately 40% of freshmen (and approximately 20% in public, four-year institutions) are in need of basic instruction in reading, writing, or mathematics before they can perform in college-level courses. It is vital that principals advocate for these students and provide digital leadership to reverse this appalling educational outcome.
The failure of many public school districts to provide the working conditions that well-trained principals need to prosper is often a central reason for these ongoing graduation and future preparation issues. By having access to edtech resources and being committed to digital learning, principals are able to work with teachers to create digital environments that facilitate excellence in learning.
The issues that principals need to work on with teachers include aligning edtech products with instruction and a standards-based curriculum to provide a good measure of achievement and improving both student learning and classroom instruction by effectively organizing resources. Principals must use sound hiring practices, ensure professional development is available at their schools, and keep abreast of digital issues that may influence the quality of teaching in schools.
While having good leaders in place is crucial, it is not always enough. If principals don’t have supportive work environments for their digital learning efforts, then even the most talented and best-trained individuals may be discouraged by the challenges they face on a daily basis.
The best districts have developed a collaborative “lattice” approach between the central office and the school. This entails districts providing good principals with the tech resources and support they need to enable their schools to succeed. When given the space by the district to focus on improving their schools, principals can then support their teachers to do the same. The focus of districts must be on raising standards and achievement, and improving digital learning by supporting and enabling principals to develop their ability as digital leaders.