Planning for practice: Descriptive case studies of two Texas school principals who have implemented 'The Breakthrough Coach'
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The numerous demands placed on today’s school administrators make it extremely difficult to improve student achievement through focused and effective curriculum and instruction leadership. In an era characterized by unprecedented levels of accountability, school leaders face increased pressures to perform and are forced to make critical decisions about where they will focus their efforts. While influencing the work of teachers in ways that improve student achievement should be the first priority of school leadership, the fact of the matter is that the many managerial responsibilities of school leadership take up considerable time and are not going away. The problem for today’s school administrators is that they are not able to achieve an effective, sustainable balance between their leadership and managerial responsibilities. Their days are often dominated by the paperwork side of their positions while it is actually the “people-work” side that has the greatest impact on the quality and effectiveness of a school. The critical interactions and conversations that take place between leaders and teachers, students, and other stakeholders, can only occur if said leaders are able to escape the confines of their offices on a frequent basis. In order to accomplish such a task, school leaders need a systematic management and leadership methodology to work within that allows them the time to be the type of leaders that teachers and students need them to be. In recent years, a consulting firm called The Breakthrough Coach (TBC) has worked with educators around the world, offering a research-based methodology that is designed to help school leaders effectively juggle their many duties for the purpose of increasing the amount of time they spend interacting with stakeholders and monitoring and evaluating system quality. The purpose for these qualitative case studies was not to conduct a program evaluation, but rather to examine the perceptions of how TBC’s methodology can influence instructional leadership practices, and to describe an effective framework of monitoring and evaluation strategies from which other school leaders can gain insight. This study’s findings indicate that principals who utilize The Breakthrough Coach methodology spend a substantial amount of time monitoring and evaluating teaching and learning and are perceived to have a significant influence on student achievement through systematic instructional leadership. The results of this study will not provide others with a guaranteed method for improving student achievement, however, the findings can provide leaders with a model of success that allows for the opportunity to establish the daily presence and influence of instructional leadership that are necessary to promote improvement. This study will contribute to the understanding of how a principal’s use of The Breakthrough Coach methodology can result in increased time spent monitoring and evaluating curriculum planning and instructional practices, and more informed understandings of the quality of the teaching and learning experiences that are taking place in classrooms. Additionally, the study will add to the literature of how school leaders can take a systems thinking approach to managing and leading schools toward meaningful and sustainable school change.