Leading Good Schools to Greatness: Mastering What Great Principals Do Well


Susan Penny Gray & William A. Streshly

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    List of Figures and Tables

    • Figure 1.1 Framework for the Highly Successful Principal 4
    • Table 2.1 Building Relationships Assessment 10
    • Table 2.2 Steps for Sharing Diversity and Implications for Work 18
    • Table 2.3 Nonconstructive Versus Constructive Feedback 20
    • Table 2.4 Strategies to Promote Interpersonal Communication 26
    • Table 2.5 Steps for Helping People Learn to Engage in Constructive Conflict 32
    • Figure 2.1 Developing Profile of an Effective Principal 37
    • Table 3.1 Duality of Professional Will and Personal Humility Assessment 41
    • Table 3.2I-centric to Altruistic 50
    • Figure 3.1 Developing Profile of an Effective Principal 53
    • Table 4.1 Confront the Brutal Facts and Maintain Unwavering Resolve Assessment 58
    • Table 4.2 Faculty-Involved Decision-Making Steps 65
    • Figure 4.1 Group Discussion Norms Example 66
    • Table 4.3 Group Discussion Roles 66
    • Table 4.4 Group Chart Example 69
    • Table 4.5 Protocol for Reporting Complexities of the Problem 70
    • Figure 4.2 Developing Profile of an Effective Principal 75
    • Table 5.1 Get the Right People Assessment 79
    • Table 5.2 Steps to Follow in Hiring the Best Teachers 88
    • Table 5.3 Proactive Strategies for Hiring the Right People Through the District Process 92
    • Table 5.4 Tenets of Effective Professional Development in Schools 94
    • Figure 5.1 Developing Profile of an Effective Principal 101
    • Figure 6.1 Hedgehog Concept for Schools 106
    • Table 6.1 Hedgehog Concept Assessment 107
    • Figure 6.2 Hedgehog Concept Understanding for Schools 111
    • Table 6.2 Examples of Schools’ Educational Engines and Their Drivers 114
    • Table 6.3 School Leadership Precepts to Guide Being Passionate 115
    • Figure 6.3 Developing Profile of an Effective Principal 122
    • Table 7.1 Build a Schoolwide Culture of Discipline Assessment 125
    • Figure 7.1 Profile of an Effective Principal 141
    • Table 8.1 Relating Collins’ Leader Behaviors to Drucker's Habits of the Effective Executive and Peters and Waterman's Principles of Leadership 144
    • Table 8.2 Tips From the Great Principals for Mastering the Habits of Great School Leaders 148
    • Table A.1 Code Families 157


    Here's a confession: For years I have thought that the most important part of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards for school leaders were dispositions that attempted to describe what the effective school leader believed in and valued. After all, if Jim Collins (2001) was right and we “need to get the right people on the bus” then such dispositions were a wonderful resource for identifying the right people (p. 41). However, as a professional association executive charged with developing programs to support the ongoing learning of educational leaders I now realize it has always been practice, or the craft of leading, that has been the focus of professionals charged with developing administrator training programs and almost never beliefs.

    Each year working with scores of exceptional people preparing to enter positions of school leadership and an even greater number striving to improve their skills at leading I am struck by the enormity of the task and pressures that they face. The challenge of creating conditions where every student can achieve at high levels—in an environment where all stakeholders feel they have a duty to share their opinion, and where professional survival may depend on scores on a less-than-perfect assessment administered once a year—can be overwhelming. Yet, rather than shirk the challenges, leaders from novice to expert continually seek assistance and expect to become both wiser and more skillful.

    Fortunately, we are living in a time when we have become much “smarter” about the craft of educational leadership. We are developing at least the basics of a grounded understanding of the most effective instructional and leadership practices that result in the highest levels of student learning. It's a big step for all levels of leaders to make the leap from knowing that it's important, for example, to “attack incoherence, make connections, and focus on continuity” to knowing how to promote coherence and a schoolwide focus (Bryk, Sebring, Kerbow, Rollow, & Easton, 1998, as quoted by Gray & Streshly, 2010, later in this book).

    This step is, understandably, even larger for the novice leader—a person who far too often may have approached graduate-level work in school administration as a means to an end rather than as a resource for being successful. At least my mantra while earning my degree in school administration was “get me through this so I can be a principal” and not “teach me thoroughly so I can be a great principal.” I thought being a great principal required the right “disposition.”

    The book you are about to read, by Penny Gray and William Streshly, takes a very different approach. Gray and Streshly have been great school leaders and once again they have become powerful teachers as they share research not just on what effective school administrators need to do, but more important, how they can do it. Gray and Streshly strongly proclaim that it is possible to learn to be a great leader as they share very practical steps to take in that learning process.

    Understanding that “everything comes into form because of relationship” (Wheatley, 1992, p. 145), Gray and Streshly have expanded the work of Jim Collins to make the concepts of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't specifically applicable to an educational setting and have added the factor of “building relationships.” By doing so, the authors have created a resource for all those seeking to be great educational leaders. If we are still seeking the right “disposition” for leadership, they have shown us that it's more about being born to learn than it is about being born to lead.

    GeorgeManthey, Assistant Executive Director for Educational Services, The Association of California School Administrators


    Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.

    —Will Rogers (American Humorist)

    This book is intended for use by practicing school administrators and those preparing for such roles. Its central purpose is to help provide these leaders with the knowledge and means to cultivate the personal qualities and characteristics that will enable them to lead their schools to greatness. The prime focus of the discussions and strategies that follow is on the site leader, although the maxims and principles presented are applicable to all leadership positions in educational administration.

    There are many fine, well-researched textbooks on educational leadership currently available. As authors of this book, we do not intend to add another textbook to the list. Rather, we have created what should be considered a practical “how to” book meant to assist practicing and aspiring leaders in acquiring the personal leadership characteristics and qualities of the best school leaders. These personal characteristics and qualities are identified in our research and presented in From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well (Gray & Streshly, 2008).

    A Unique Focus on Greatness

    This book takes up where the first book left off. It provides the reader with sound, tested strategies for developing the personal competencies associated with highly successful leadership. We debunk the widely held belief that truly great school leaders are born, not made. Our in-depth conversations with these dynamic leaders tell us that the indispensible qualities and dispositions of highly successful administrators can be learned.

    The strategies and activities suggested in each chapter of this book can be taught formally as part of an administrator preparation program, or they can be used by the individual reader to independently learn—and practice—the qualities, characteristics, and dispositions of great leaders. Each chapter, for example, contains case studies, personal leadership activities, and reflections on leadership that constitute rich resources for a credential program instructor's class preparation or for independent study.

    This book is not a comprehensive discussion of the school administrator's job. There is virtually no mention of school law, educational finance, curriculum management, instructional organization, or other technical aspects of our school systems. Instead, this book focuses on those personal forces that make all the other parts work well.

    Research on Highly Successful Leaders

    This book is also not a compilation of craft knowledge. We agree with the researchers who have identified the skill of the CEO or the principal as a prime factor in the success of a business or school (Collins, 2001; Fullan, 2008), but we reject the various compilations of state and national standards based on surveys of practicing administrators in the field. Most of these are simply guesses about what seems to make sense and are validated by the same people who made the guesses in the first place (English, 2005). In contrast, other research projects, such as the one directed by Collins, have scrutinized very successful operations in the private sector in order to learn what makes them great. Collins’ best-selling book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't, points to the personal leadership characteristics of CEOs as the catalytic agents kindling corporate greatness.

    In the original research for our book, From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well, we used Collins’ in-depth, qualitative approach to identify the leadership characteristics of highly successful school principals. What ensued was a series of intimate and insightful conversations with a select group of principals representing some of the best in the country.

    How This Book Supports and Differs from the Original Good Schools to Great Schools

    This book differs from our original book in that it focuses sharply on strategies you, the reader, might use to acquire those special personal qualities and dispositions that the research tells us have the most profound impact on leading an educational institution to true greatness. Our research process in this book included additional interviews with other well-regarded school leaders, including the principals of elementary and secondary charter schools. These activities honed our awareness that other personal characteristics may be advantageous to a principal guiding a faculty to greater achievement in various circumstances. Nevertheless, this book is about acquiring the essentials—the universal qualities and dispositions of great leaders. Chapters 2 through 7 are devoted to providing detailed strategies and activities for doing this. To assist you in your efforts to inculcate these leadership attributes in your personal behavior as a principal, the chapters begin with self-assessments designed to encourage reflection on personal leadership skills development (for example, see Chapter 2, page 10).

    When we first began this project, we asked ourselves the question, “If we know what needs to be done to produce great schools, why can't we do it?” No one disputes that we have a large body of research and professional knowledge about the technical aspects of the school principal's job. We know how to develop curriculum, balance our accounts, manage our employee contracts, and complete most of the other tasks principals face. Why, then, do we fail? Why don't our schools lead the world?

    The answer lies with the leadership skills of our principals. Chapter 1 of this book provides an introduction to Collins’ research on private sector CEOs, which inspired our study of high-performing school principals. The chapter also presents a brief summary of the personal leadership qualities and characteristics we discovered our highly successful principals held in common. We were not surprised that many of the personal leadership characteristics of the high-performing private sector CEOs were found among our high-performing principals as well. The one exception to this was the quasi-political skill in building relationships.

    Using a case study as a foundation, Chapter 2 reviews some of the pertinent research on building human relationships in organizations and presents ideas gleaned from our high-performing principals. Strategies for building relationships among members of a school's faculty and staff are outlined in three parts focusing on primary aspects of on-campus human relations: building trust, promoting healthy interpersonal communication, and managing constructive conflict.

    Chapter 3 zeroes in on how to do what you know must be done while keeping your ego in check and maintaining proper humility. Upholding high standards steadfastly is the source of a great leader's inspiration. Personal humility, which includes crediting others in the organization for its success, is a hallmark of high-performing school principals.

    Confronting brutal facts about your school's operations is the focus of Chapter 4. The emphasis is on planning and implementing actions to deal with weaknesses. In the final analysis, these become the opportunities for a great principal to make a positive difference.

    A principal's human resources challenges are examined next in Chapter 5. Strategies are explored for getting the right self-disciplined people on your staff—and the wrong ones off.

    Chapter 6 deals with leading your staff to success by marshalling its forces and concentrating efforts on accomplishing the school's primary mission. You will learn how to use the “Hedgehog Concept” identified by Collins for the private sector and modified to pertain to education in the From Good Schools to Great Schools study.

    In Chapter 7 you will learn to put it all together. You will explore the sharing of responsibility and accountability. Strategies for building a culture of self-discipline will be described along with activities designed to help you execute these strategies.

    Finally, Chapter 8 discusses what constitutes good preparation for school leaders. This chapter contains ideas about leadership training that should be considered by administrative credential candidates seeking high-level preparation. Also included in this chapter is a handy table containing 20 rules of conduct for the beginning principal—tips for success from the best principals we studied.

    Valuable resources are included at the end of the book. Resources A, B, and C contain a summary of our research methodology, including interview questions; Resource D is a list of suggested readings.


    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:

    • Mary Lynne Derrington
    • Western Washington University
    • Bellingham, WA
    • Jim Hager, Professor-in-Residence
    • Department of Educational Leadership
    • College of Education, University of Nevada
    • Las Vegas, NV
    • Sandra Harris, Professor
    • Director, Center for Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership
    • Lamar University
    • Beaumont, TX
    • Thomas F. Leahy, Retired Superintendent and Consultant
    • Illinois Association of School Boards
    • Springfield, IL
    • John Pieper, Teacher
    • Webster Stanley Elementary School
    • Oshkosh, WI

    About the Authors

    Susan Penny Gray, PhD, has been an educator for more than 40 years in Indiana and California, including 15 years as Director of Curriculum Services for the San Marcos Unified School District in San Marcos, California, and eight years as a member of the Educational Leadership faculty at San Diego State University. During her tenure as Director of Curriculum Services she was responsible for the development, implementation, and maintenance of exemplary programs recognized throughout California in Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, History-Social Science, and Science for grades K–12. She was also responsible for effective teacher and principal support strategies that during the years under her direction evolved into a powerful system of coaches and facilitators of staff development. Dr. Gray has “walked the talk” in helping principals become truly effective instructional leaders. Her insights give down-to-earth, practical meaning to the research discussed in this book.

    In addition to her involvement with the faculty of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University, Dr. Gray is certified to train administrators and teachers in Conducting Walk-Throughs for Higher Student Achievement and has implemented this training in several states across the country. She has also served as an external evaluator of schools and is a certified School Assistance Intervention Team leader for the State of California. She received curriculum management audit training from the California Curriculum Management Audit Center in Burlingame, California, in 1998. Since then she has served on school district audits in California, Washington, Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Bermuda. She has also served on academic achievement teams conducting comprehensive on-site assessments of the educational operations of school and community college districts in California.

    Dr. Gray is co-author of the best-selling school leadership book From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well.

    William A. Streshly, Ph.D, is Emeritus Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education at San Diego State University. Prior to coming to the University in 1990, Dr. Streshly spent 25 years in public school administration, including 5 years as principal of a large suburban high school and 15 years as superintendent of several California school districts varying in size from 2,500 to 25,000 students.

    In addition to his numerous publications in the professional journals, Dr. Streshly is author or co-author of five practical books for school leaders, The Top Ten Myths in Education, Avoiding Legal Hassles (two editions), Teacher Unions and Quality Education, Preventing and Managing Teacher Strikes, and From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well.

    Currently, Professor Streshly is a senior lead auditor for Curriculum Management Systems, Inc., an affiliate of Phi Delta Kappa International. He has audited the instructional operations of more than 40 school districts in 16 states. His intense interest in the role of effective school leadership stems from his own extensive experience as well as his in-depth observation of the work of hundreds of practicing school principals across the country.

  • Resources

    Resource A: Research Methodology

    The strategies and professional practices outlined in this book are rooted in the research we completed and reported in From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Our Principals Do Well (Gray & Streshly, 2008). Our purpose in this book was to provide school leaders with the knowledge and means to cultivate the personal leadership qualities of highly successful principals that surfaced in our earlier research. This research and the ensuing books amount to continuing conversations with some of our country's best principals. Following is a description of the research methodology.

    Semistructured Qualitative Interview

    Collins (2001) and his researchers collected information by using a variety of methods. However, central to their examination of the leadership in the 11 Good to Great companies were open-ended qualitative interviews. The intent here was to replicate those interviews (as modified to apply to school leadership) with a group of principals whose schools moved from good to great in student achievement, and a group of comparison principals whose schools were good but did not move to great. Collins named the CEOs of the Good to Great companies Level 5 Executives. For purposes of this study, the name given to the principals of the schools that moved from good to great in student achievement was highly successful principals.

    One of the powerful aspects of Collins’ (2001) research is that it “zeros out systemic factors versus whining factors” (2004). The leaders of Collins’ (2001) Good to Great companies and comparison companies all faced constraints outside their control. Similarly the highly successful and comparison principals in this study faced constraints such as union problems, hiring and firing restrictions, chronic personnel issues, and the diversity of the student population. Nonetheless, just as the Good to Great companies were able to outperform other similar companies, students of Good to Great schools were able to outperform students of other schools with similar demographics. People can often make breakthroughs despite those systemic factors.

    The interview process was semistructured. The interview was guided by a series of questions that are modifications of the questions asked of CEOs in Collins’ (2001) research (see Resource C for Principal Interview Questions). As each interview progressed, participants were encouraged to raise additional or complementary issues relevant to the study's purposes. In addition, lines of thought identified by earlier interviewees were taken up and presented to later interviewees as well in second interviews for refinement of ideas.

    Demographic Information Questionnaire and Interview Procedures

    Collins’ (2001) researchers examined 56 CEOs via interview and document analysis for (1) management style, (2) executive persona, (3) personal life, and (4) each one's top five priorities as CEO. Demographic information was collected for each for background and tenure information. The same method was replicated with modifications for this study of principals in successful schools using the semistructured qualitative interview method and a demographic information questionnaire (see Resource C). Additional questions were added as necessary to extract more comprehensive information concerning the characteristics and behaviors of the principals. In addition, questions were added to look at life and educational experiences influencing the leadership of the principals interviewed.

    Data Analysis Procedures

    The participants’ names, school names, and district names were kept confidential by using fictitious names.

    The original responses to interview questions for all participants were coded using the tools of the ATLAS.ti qualitative analysis software. Categories for the first round of coding were based on an analysis of the responses in relation to Collins’ (2001) characteristics and behaviors of a Level 5 Executive. For example, we asked the following question: “What do you see as the top five factors that have contributed to the success in student achievement performance at the school?” One factor volunteered by an interviewee was “We all decided as a group to implement a new reading program at grades 1 to 3. In the first year, we saw gains in student test scores. My teachers should be credited for that … and maybe [it was] a little [bit of] luck too!” Aspects of this statement were coded as consistent with Collins’ definition of compelling modesty. The second round of coding was expanded to include additional characteristics and behaviors generated by the interviewee (e.g., shared decision making, building relationships, visiting classrooms, trust). The earlier question and response example received an additional code of shared decision making. During the coding process, additional ideas generated from the questions asked—or by ideas volunteered from the interviewee—materialized, and coding was refined further to explore patterns among the principals interviewed relevant to the study. Related codes were grouped together in code families. Table A.1 presents the code families applied in this analysis.

    Table A.1 Code Families
    Code FamilyRelated Codes
    Duality of Professional Will and Personal HumilityActs as a Screen
    Ambition for Success of CompanySchool First
    Encourage Professionalism
    Promote Leadership
    Value on Staff Development
    Concern for Successor
    Unwavering ResolveRelentless
    Classroom Presence
    “First Who … Then What”Authority to Hire
    Latitude to Hire and Fire
    Persistent in Getting People
    Confront the Brutal FactsAnalyzes Data
    Works Through Problems
    Not Resigned
    The Hedgehog ConceptPassion
    Knows What Can Be Best At
    Knows What Will Make the
    Culture of DisciplineVision
    Not Micromanager
    Focus on Student Achievement
    Teacher Freedom
    Building RelationshipsPeople Skills
    Open Door Policy
    Staff Involvement
    Shared Decision Making
    Teachers Working Together
    SOURCE: Adapted from Collins (2001).

    As noted in Table A.1, code family headings were the characteristics and behaviors that Collins (2001) identified in his Level 5 Executives. One additional code family heading was “building relationships.” As the principal responses were coded, notes were made to clarify reasons for the coding. The refined coding of the responses served to organize the data, interpretations, and connections to existing literature, analysis, and conclusions of the study.

    Resource B: Interview Participant Selection

    The intent here was to study the characteristics and behaviors of highly successful principals, and not of the schools themselves. Therefore, a measure of success was needed. Criterion for selection of the subjects in the study is student test performance, specifically the California Academic Performance Index (API). Student test performance is affected by many demographic factors that are not under the control of a principal. In order to eliminate as many of those factors as possible, the API similar school ranking system is used. In the similar school ranking system, schools are compared to schools with like demographics such as mobility, credentialed teachers, language, average class size, multitrack year-round schedule, ethnicity, and free or reduced price meals. The State of California's API formula gave a certain weight to each of the categories of demographics and did not weight some factors as important as others in determining API similar schools rank for schools. Each school's school characteristic index (SCI), a composite of the school's demographic characteristics, is calculated. Then a comparison group for each school is formed by placing the school's SCI as the median, and taking the 50 schools with SCIs just above the median and the 50 just below the median. Principals in these 100 similar schools have similar issues with which to contend. The 100 schools are sorted from lowest to highest according to their API base, then are divided into 10 equal-sized groups (deciles). Schools with a decile of 9 or 10 in rank are doing qualitatively better than the other 100 schools in their demographic group. For purposes of this exploration, 14 San Diego, Riverside, and Orange Counties school principals were identified initially. From those initial 14, 11 agreed to participate and three declined. Six of the 11 participants were identified as highly successful principals. The five remaining participants were identified in the study as comparison principals.

    Selection of the highly successful principals was based on the following criteria:

    • The principal's school had a sustained California API similar schools rank of 9 or 10 in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The rank of 9 or 10 is considered by California Department of Education as “well-above average” or “highly successful.” In 1999, the school's similar schools rank was two or more deciles lower than in 2001, but no lower than a 5. (The rank of 5, 6, 7, or 8 is considered by California Department of Education as “above average” or “good.”) The purpose here was to choose schools that had moved from “good” to “highly successful” in student achievement over the five years in the study. In addition, there had been no significant change in demographics at the school during the five-year period that might skew the test results (as noted in interviews or the school academic report). Ranking and demographic information was obtained on the California Department of Education Web site.
    • The school ranked in decile 4 or higher in both 1999 and 2003 in relative rank. In this relative ranking, a school's API is compared to all other schools in the state.
    • The principals of the chosen schools had been at the school for the entire time (1999 through 2003). This information was obtained directly from the central office of the district in which the principal worked and by reference to the California Public School Directories for the years 2000 through 2003.

    This study explored commonalities shared by highly successful principals. In order to see if these shared characteristics are different from those of other principals, a comparison group of principals was identified. The difference between the schools headed by principals in the comparison group and the schools headed by principals in the highly successful group is the sustained nature of each school's success. The comparison principals’ schools started at a similar level to the highly successful principals’ schools in 1999 with an API similar school rank of “above average” or “good,” but were unable to move to “well-above average” or “highly successful” and sustain that success. The primary criteria for the selection of principals in the comparison group are the following three:

    • In 1999, the school's similar schools rank was no lower than a 5 and no higher than an 8 (i.e., above average or good).
    • Subsequent ranks for 2000 through 2003 remained the same or fluctuated.
    • The principals of the chosen schools had been at the school for the entire period 1999 through 2003.

    The purpose of the study is to compare the characteristics shared by highly successful principals to the characteristics of principals heading schools that did not sustain success. However, in an effort to reduce as much as feasible the variables that might affect that success, the study also sought to identify schools that were as similar as possible. Therefore, principals in the highly successful group and principals in the comparison group were chosen where practical from their shared list of 100 similar schools. Direct comparison of individual principals between the two study groups was not intended in this study. This attempt to reduce variables between schools was partially successful. Four of the comparison principals headed schools that were in the same 100 similar schools lists as the highly successful principals. In a fifth case, a comparison principal was interviewed, but the highly successful principal from the same similar schools list did not ultimately participate. This comparison principal remained in the study because she still met the primary criteria for being included in the comparison group. In the last case, one highly successful principal in the study did participate but all of the potential comparison principals from the same 100 similar schools list declined to participate. Once again, because the intent was not to compare individual principals, this was not a serious obstacle to the study. In all, a total study set of 11 principals, six highly successful principals and five comparison principals, participated in the study.

    Resource C: Principal Interview Questions Derived from Collins’ (2001) CEO Interview and Demographic Questionnaire

    Principal Interview Questions
    • Briefly, give me an overview of your relationship to the district, years in the district and at the school, and primary jobs held in the district.
    • Give me a brief description of the demographics of the school. Students? Community?
    • Tell me a little about the staff of the school in 1999 [first year of the API].
    • Why do you believe you were selected as principal of the school?
    • What kind of leadership style do you think you have?
    • What kind of leadership style would your teachers say you have?
    • I'd like you to take a minute and write down the top five factors that you believe have contributed to the school's success in improving student achievement performance at the school. [Give interviewee a piece of paper.]
    • Now number them in order of importance with 1 being the most important factor.
    • Talk a little about the [top two or three] factors that you listed. Give me some examples that illustrate the factors.
    • What decision did the school make to initiate an increase in student achievement during the years prior [1997–1999?] to receiving a ranking of 9 or 10 on the 2000 API? What sparked that decision?
    • What role did technology play in all this?
    • What latitude did you have as principal of the school to make the decisions you had to make? In what ways were you restricted?
    • What process did you and the school staff use to make key decisions and develop key strategies that led to the increase in student achievement performance at the school? [Not what decisions the school made, but how did it go about making them?]
    • On a scale of 1 to 10, what confidence did you have in the decisions at the time they were made, before you knew their outcome? [10: you had great confidence that they were very good decisions with high probability of success; 1: you had little confidence in the decisions; they seemed risky—a roll of the dice.] [If interviewee had confidence of 6 or greater: What gave you such confidence in the decisions?]
    • What was the role, if any, of outside consultants, advisors, and central office personnel in making the key decisions?
    • How did the school get commitment and agreement with its decisions from everyone? Teachers, parents, students? Give me a specific example of how this took place.
    • What did you do to ensure that teachers continued to focus on improving student test performance?
    • What did you try that didn't work during the years before attaining a similar schools ranking of 9 or 10? Why didn't it work?
    • How did your school manage the pressures of district, state, and federal accountability while making these long-term changes for the future?
    • Many schools undertake change programs and initiatives, yet their efforts do not produce lasting results. One of the remarkable aspects of [Successful School's] transition is that it endured over several years, and was not just a short-term upswing. We find this extraordinary. What makes [Successful School] different? What were the primary factors in maintaining the similar schools ranking over the years?
    • Tell me about one particularly powerful example or vignette from your experience or observation that, to you, exemplifies the essence of the success at [Successful School].
    • I'd like to switch gears a bit here. Talk to me a bit about the administrative credential preparation courses you have taken. On a scale of 1 to 5 how would you rate them? [1: of value; 5: of great value]. [If 3 or more: Give me a few examples of elements of your course work that you believe to be of value to the work you do as a principal.]
    • Whom do you consider to be your mentor(s)? Talk to me about that person(s) and why he or she is your mentor.
    • Talk to me about some experience related to work or to your personal life or experience that you have had in the past that you believe helped to shape your leadership.
    • What did you do to ensure that teachers continued to focus on improving student test performance?
    • What do or did you want most for your school?
    • When you think about your work here, what are you most proud of?
    • What efforts do or did you make to ensure that the school continued to sustain its success?
    • When you leave your position as principal, what do you want to be remembered for?
    • What else would you would like to tell me about the reasons for the success of your school in raising student achievement?

    Copyright © 2008 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well, by Susan Penny Gray and William A. Streshly. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwinpress.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Demographic Questionnaire

    Circle your responses.

    • Were you brought in from outside the district directly into the principal position at the school?
      • Yes
      • No
    • Length of employment in the school district before becoming principal of the school:
      • 10+ years
      • 4–9 years
      • 1–3 years
      • Less than a year
    • Age at the time of becoming the principal of the school:
      • Less than 25
      • 25–30
      • 31–40
      • 41–50
      • 51+
    • Length of tenure as the principal of the school:
      • 7–10+ years
      • 5–6 years
      • 3–4 years
    • Job held immediately before becoming principal of the school:
      • Principal
      • Assistant principal
      • Teacher
      • Other administrator
      • Other
      • Where did you receive administrative credential? (Select one):
      • California
      • Other state
      • Other country

        What institution? ___________

    • Received masters degree in (select all that apply):
      • Educational administration
      • Education
      • Other: ________
    • Received doctoral degree in (select all that apply):
      • Educational administration
      • Education
      • Other: _________
    • Work experience and other experiences (e.g., military) before coming to public education (select all that apply):
      • Military
      • Sales
      • Government
      • Technology/business
      • Other: _________
    • Total length of time employed as a teacher before becoming an administrator:
      • 15+
      • 10–14
      • 4–9
      • 1–3
      • Less than 1 year
    • Jobs held while employed in the current district (select all that apply):
      • Principal
      • Assistant principal
      • Teacher
      • Other administrative position
      • Other certificated position (not administrative)
      • Noncertificated position
    • Jobs held while at the current school (select all that apply):
      • Principal
      • Assistant principal
      • Teacher
      • Other administrative position
      • Other certificated position (not administrative)
      • Noncertificated position

    Copyright © 2008 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well, by Susan Penny Gray and William A. Streshly. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwinpress.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Resource D: Suggested Readings

    Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D. (2001). Now, discover your strengths. New York: The Free Press.
    Utilizing an online survey, readers identify five themes of individual strengths. Then, the authors show readers how to leverage the strengths for success as a manager of others.
    Chenoweth, K. (2009, September). It can be done, it's being done, and here's how. Kappan. 91(1), 38–43. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/003172170909100106
    The author reviews winning strategies implemented by a new principal, whose school was reconstituted in Mobile, Alabama. The strategies focus on faculty collaboration.
    Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don't. New York: HarperCollins.
    This book is based on a study of a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. The findings of the study identified a certain type of leadership required to achieve greatness in these companies.
    Collins, J. (2005). Good to great and the social sectors: Why business thinking is not the answer. Monograph to accompany Good to great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don't (Collins, 2001). Boulder, CO: Author.
    Collins reacts to questions about application of findings in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't to the social sector. The monograph looks at measuring success, getting things done from a diffuse power structure, getting the right people on the bus, and rethinking the economic engine all from the perspective of the social sector.
    Conners, R., & Smith, T. (2009). How did that happen? Holding people accountable—for results—the positive, principled way. New York: Penguin.
    Using case studies, practical models, and self-assessments, the authors make it possible for anyone to install accountability as a central part of their daily work, their team's efforts, or an overall corporate culture—and, in turn, increase profits and generate better results.
    Conzemius, A., & O'Neill, J. (2001). Building shared responsibility for student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    The authors present a practical framework for building shared responsibility within schools and school systems. They identify three critical components: Focus, Reflection, and Collaboration.
    Downey, C. (2001). The three-minute classroom walk-through: Changing supervision practice one teacher at a time. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    The author presents a curriculum monitoring technique that capitalizes on building relationships through engaging teachers in reflective dialogue and focusing the energies of a school organization to enhance classroom instruction.
    Drucker, P. (1966). The effective executive: The definitive guide to getting the right things done. New York: HarperBusiness Essentials.
    The author of the 50-year-old management classic, The Effective Executive, Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned. He demonstrates the distinctive skill of the executive and offers fresh insights into old and seemingly obvious business situations.
    DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & DuFour, R. (Eds.). (2005). On common ground: The power of professional learning communities. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
    DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour offer a compendium of essays about the impact of collaboration and relationships in schools organized as professional learning communities.
    Frase, L., & Streshly, W. (1994). Lack of accuracy, feedback, and commitment in teacher evaluation. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 1, 47–57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00972709
    The authors present research data to support the inadequacies of teacher supervision and evaluation practices. Their research is based on data collected from six school districts by trained curriculum management auditors.
    Frase, L., & Streshly, W. (2000). The top ten myths in education. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
    The authors expose ten of the common myths about American public schools—myths that have blocked meaningful school reform for decades. The book is a must read for educational policy makers and administrators.
    Gray, S. P., & Streshly, W. A. (2008). From good schools to great schools: What their principals do well. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Based on the concepts from the national bestseller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't, this book identifies nine characteristics of high-performing “Level 5” school leaders through in-depth discussions and detailed case studies of six “star” school principals.
    Lencioni, P. (2005). Overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team: A field guide for leaders, managers, and facilitators. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    The author provides leaders with a practical tool for Trusting Each Other, Engaging in Unfiltered Conflict Around Ideas, Committing to Decisions and Plans of Action, Holding One Another Accountable, and Focusing on Achievement of Collective Results.
    Maxwell, J. (1998). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership: Follow them and people will follow you. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
    John C. Maxwell offers lively stories about the foibles and successes of Lee Iacocca, Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana, and Elizabeth Dole in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Readers can expect a well-crafted discussion that emphasizes the core attitudes and visions of leadership.
    McDonald, J. P., Mohr, N., Dichter, A., & McDonald, E. C. (2007). The power of protocols: An educator's guide to better practice (
    2nd ed.
    ). New York: Teachers College Press.
    This teaching and professional development tool is essential for anyone working with collaborative groups of teachers on everything from school improvement to curriculum development to teacher education at all levels.
    Peters, T. J., & Waterman, R. H. (2004). In search of excellence: Lessons from America's best-run companies. New York: HarperBusiness Essentials.
    Based on a study of forty-three of America's best-run companies from a diverse array of business sectors. Describes eight basic principles of management that made these organizations successful.
    Reeves, D. (2007). The daily disciplines of leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    This book is a comprehensive and down-to-earth manual for school leaders that addresses the daunting challenges that today's principals, superintendents, and teacher leaders face on a daily basis.
    Roberto, M. (2005). Why great leaders don't take yes for an answer. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education/Wharton School Publishing.
    In this book, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Roberto shows you how to stimulate dissent and debate to improve your decision-making; he also shows how to keep that conflict constructive.
    Streshly, W., Walsh, J., & Frase, L. (2002). Avoiding legal hassles: What school administrators really need to know (
    2nd ed.
    ). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    A practical, nuts-and-bolts discussion of the school leader's role in the public school's conformance with school law—from the point of view of the practitioner. It is a practical guide to legally sound school planning.
    Tschannen-Moran, M. (2004). Trust matters: Leadership for successful schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Trust Matters offers educators a practical, hands-on guide for establishing and maintaining trust within their schools as well as providing information on how to repair trust that has been damaged.
    Whitaker, T. (2003). What great principals do differently: Fifteen things that matter most. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
    Blending school-centered studies and experience working with hundreds of administrators, the author reveals fifteen things that the most successful principals do and that other principals do not.


    Barlow, V. (2001). Trust and the principalship. Centre for Leadership in Learning, University of Calgary. Retrieved June 2, 2009, from http://www.ucalgary.ca/~cll/resources/trustandtheprincipalship.pdf
    Berlin, I. (1993). The hedgehog and the fox. Chicago: Elephant Paperbacks.
    Betts, B. (2007, November 16). Facing the brutal facts [web log]. Retrieved June 23, 2009, from http://fbroman.blogspot.com/2007/11/facing-brutal-facts-by-bambi-betts.html
    Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. S. (1989). The managerial grid III. Houston, TX: Gulf.
    Blase, J., & Kirby, P. C. (1992). The power of praise—A strategy for effective schools. NASSP Bulletin, 76, 69–77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/019263659207654809
    Boudett, K., City, E., & Murnane, R. (2007). Data wise: A step-by-step guide to using assessment results to improve teaching and learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
    BrewsterC., & Railsback, J. (2003). Building trusting relationships for school improvement: Implications for principals and teachers. Portland, OR: Northwest Educational Laboratory. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service, ED 481 987)
    Bridges, E., & Hallinger, P. (1992). Problem based learning for administrators. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management.
    Brooks, D. (2009, May 19). In praise of dullness. The New York Times, p. A25.
    Bryk, A. S. & Schneider, B. L. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
    Bryk, A. S., Sebring, P., Kerbow, D., Rollow, S., & Easton, J., (1998). Charting Chicago school reform: Democratic localism as a lever for change. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
    Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D., (2001). Now, discover your strengths. New York: The Free Press.
    Buckingham, M., & Coffman, C., (1999). First break all the rules. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    Chester, M., & Beaudin, B., (1996). Efficacy beliefs of newly hired teachers in urban schools. American Educational Research Journal, 33(1), 233–257. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00028312033001233
    Collins, J., (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don't. New York: HarperCollins.
    Collins, J., (Speaker). (2004). Being charismatic and wrong is a bad combination (Audio recording). Retrieved January 7, 2005, from http://www.jimcollins.com/media_topics/all.html#audio=5
    Collins, J., (2005). Good to great and the social sectors: Why business thinking is not the answer [Monograph]. Collins (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don't. Boulder, CO: Author.
    Contini, M., (2008, January 10). School district tries to find positives in deciding which schools will close. Thousand Oaks Acorn. Retrieved June 23, 2009, from http://www.toacorn.com/news/2008/0110/Schools/007.html
    Corcoran, T. B. (1995). Helping teachers teach well: Transforming professional development. Consortium for Policy Research in Education Policy Briefs. Retrieved October 1, 2009, from http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/CPRE/t61/index.html
    Darling-Hammond, L., (1997). The right to learn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Davis, S., Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., & Meyerson, D., (2005). School leadership study: Developing successful principals. Stanford, CA: Stanford Educational Leadership Institute.
    Deming, W. E. (1986). Out of the crisis. Cambridge: MIT Press.
    Deutsch, M., & Coleman, P. T. (Eds.). (2000). The handbook of constructive conflict resolution: Theory and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Downey, C. J. (2005). SchoolView: Gathering trend data on curricular and instructional classroom practices. Participant's manual and trainer's kit. Johnston, IA: Curriculum Management Systems, Inc.,
    Downey, C. J., Steffy, B., English, F., Frase, L., & Poston, W., (2004). The three-minute classroom walk-through: Changing school supervisory practice one teacher at a time. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Drucker, P., (1966). The effective executive: The definitive guide to getting the right things done. New York: HarperBusiness Essentials.
    DuFour, R., (2002). The learning-centered principal. Educational Leadership, 59(8), 12–15.
    DuFour, R., (2004). Learning Communities. Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6–11.
    DuFour, R., & Eaker, R., (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & DuFour, R., (Eds.). (2005). On common ground: The power of professional learning communities. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
    Duke, D., & Stiggins, R., (1990). Beyond minimum competence: Evaluation for professional development. In J.Millman & L.Darling-Hammond (Eds.), The new handbook of teacher evaluation (pp. 116–132). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Elmore, R., (1995). Getting to scale with good educational practice. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 1–26.
    English, F. W. (2005, June). Educational leadership for sale: Social justice, the ISLLC standards and the corporate assault on public schools. Paper presented at the 8th Annual Advanced Auditing Seminar, Big Sky, MT.,
    English, F. W., & Poston, W., (1999). GAAP: Generally accepted audit principles for curriculum management. Johnston, IA: Curriculum Management Systems.
    Ferguson, R. F. (2006). Five challenges to effective teacher professional development. Journal of Staff Development, 27(4), 48–52.
    Frase, L., (2003, April). Policy implications for school work environments: Implications from a causal model regarding frequency of teacher flow experiences, school principal classroom walk-through visits, teacher evaluation and professional development, and efficacy measures. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.,
    Frase, L., & Streshly, W., (1994, February). Lack of accuracy, feedback, and commitment in teacher evaluation. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 8(1), 47–57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00972709
    Frase, L., Zhu, N., & Galloway, F., (2001, April). An examination of the relationships among principal classroom visits, teacher flow experiences, and student cognitive engagement in two inner-city school districts. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, WA.,
    Freedman, B., & Lafleur, C., (2002, April). Making leadership visible and practical: Walking for improvement. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.,
    Fullan, M., (1992). Visions that blind. Educational Leadership, 49(5), 19–20.
    Fullan, M., (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Fullan, M., (2002). The change leader. Educational Leadership, 59(8), 16–20.
    Fullan, M., (2003). The moral imperative of school leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Ontario Principals’ Council/Corwin.
    Fullan, M., (2008). The six secrets of change: What the best leaders do to help their organizations survive and thrive. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Fullan, M., & Hargreaves, A., (1991). What's worth fighting for? Working together for your school. Toronto: Ontario Public School Teachers’ Federation.
    Glickman, C. D., Gordon, S. P., & Ross-Gordon, J. M. (2005). The basic guide to supervision and instructional leadership. Boston: Pearson Education.
    Gordon, S. P. (1997). Has the field of supervision evolved to a point that it should be called something else? Yes. In J.Glanz & R. F.Neville (Eds.), Educational supervision: Perspectives, issues and controversies (pp. 114–123). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.
    Gray, P., (2003). An exploratory study of the relationship between principal walkthroughs and the work of teachers and principals. Research toward doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate University and San Diego State University.
    Gray, P., & Frase, L., (2003). Analysis of teacher flow experiences as they relate to principal classroom walk-throughs. Unpublished raw data from report to Shawnee Mission School Board, Shawnee Mission, KS.,
    Gray, S. P., & Streshly, W. A. (2008). From good schools to great schools: What their principals do well. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Grove Consultants International. (n.d.). Cover story vision. Retrieved September 3, 2009, from http://www.grove.com/product_details.html?productid=8
    Hall, P., (2007). Teacher quality as a determinant of student success. Education World. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/columnists/hall/hall019.shtml
    Haycock, K., (1998). Good teaching matters … a lot. Washington, DC: Education Trust.
    Heap, N., (n.d.). Counselling skills. Retrieved September 3, 2009, from http://www.nickheap.co.uk/articles:asp?ART_ID=42
    Heifetz, R., (1994). Leadership without easy answers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    Iwanicki, E., (1990). Teacher evaluation for school improvement. In J.Millman & L.Darling-Hammond (Eds.), The new handbook of teacher evaluation (pp. 158–171). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Keedy, J. L., & Simpson, D. S. (2002). Principal priorities, school norms, and teacher influence: A study of sociocultural leadership in the high school. Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations, 16(1), 10–41.
    Kohn, A., (1999). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise and other bribes (
    2nd ed
    .). New York: Houghton Mifflin.
    Lencioni, P., (2001). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Lezotte, L., (2001). Revolutionary and evolutionary: The effective schools movement. Okemos, MI: Effective Schools Products, Ltd.,
    Little, J. W. (1990). The persistence of privacy: Autonomy and initiative in teachers’ professional relations. Teachers’ College Record, 91(4), 509–536.
    Marzano, R. J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Matsui, B., (2002). The Ysleta story: A tipping point in education. Claremont, CA: The Institute at Indian Hill/CGU.
    Maxwell, J., (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership workbook. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
    McCall, J., (1997). The principal as steward. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education.
    McDonald, J. P., Mohr, N., Dichter, A., & McDonald, E. C. (2007). The power of protocols: An educator's guide to better practice (
    2nd ed.
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    McGregor, D., (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.
    The McKinsey Report. (2007, September). How the world's best performing school systems come out on top. Retrieved July 13, 2009, from http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/Social_Sector/our_practices/Education/Knowledge_Highlights/Best_performing_school.aspx
    Mendes, E., (2003). Empty the cup … Before you fill it up: Relationship-building activities to promote effective learning environments. San Diego, CA: Mendes Training and Consulting.
    Mintzberg, H., (1990). The manager's job: Folklore and fact. In J.Gabarro (Ed.), Managing people and organizations (pp. 13–32). Boston: Harvard Business School Publications.
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    Morrison Institute for Public Policy & Center for the Future of Arizona. (2006, March). Why some schools with Latino children beat the odds … and others don't. Retrieved August 11, 2009, from http://www.beattheoddsinstitute.org/overview/index.php
    Mortenson, G., & Relin, D., (2006). Three cups of tea: One man's mission to promote peace … one school at a time. New York: Penguin Books.
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    Peters, T., (1987). Thriving on chaos. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
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    Reeves, D., (2000). Accountability in action: A blueprint for learning organizations, Denver, CO; Advanced Learning Centers.
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    Corwin: A SAGE Company

    The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

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