The New School Management by Wandering Around


William A. Streshly, Susan Penny Gray & Larry E. Frase

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    In memory of our good friend and colleague, Larry E. Frase


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    List of Tables and Figures

    • Figure 2.1 Concern for Faculty and Staff Versus Concern for School's Mission 20
    • Figure 2.2 Five School Leadership Patterns 21
    • Figure 2.3 Your Concern for Faculty and Staff Versus Your Concern for the Mission of the School 26
    • Table 4.1 MBWA Principal Actions for Building Environments Conducive to Teacher Flow Experiences 55
    • Figure 5.1 Alignment of the Written, Taught, and Tested Curriculum 71
    • Table 5.1 Condensed Version of Bloom's Taxonomy 72
    • Table 5.2 Deconstruction of Fifth-Grade Test Item for Topological Alignment 76
    • Figure 5.2 Fifth-Grade Test Item 77
    • Table 5.3 Objective Deeply Aligned to the Fifth-Grade Test Item 78
    • Table 5.4 Collaborative Models for Monitoring the Curriculum 87
    • Table 6.1 Benefits of Principal Classroom Observations and Supporting Research 93
    • Table 6.2 Principal and Teacher Comments About the Benefits of Informal Principal Classroom Observations or Walk-Throughs 95
    • Table 6.3 Information Gathered During Informal Principal Classroom Observations 103
    • Table 6.4 Uses for Data Collected During Informal Classroom Observations 104
    • Table 6.5 Informal Classroom Observation Protocols 107
    • Table 6.6 Five-Step Observation Structure of the Downey Walk-Through 110
    • Table 7.1 Principal Job Dimensions and Time Spent on Each 121
    • Table 7.2 Principal Time Allocations 121
    • Table 7.3 Principals' Time-on-Task Increase, 2004 – 2007 122
    • Table 7.4 Life Role Analysis 127
    • Table 7.5 Rating My Life Roles for Importance and Priorities 128
    • Table 7.6 Sample Plan for Reducing Discrepancies 129
    • Table 7.7 Planning My Life Role Activities 130
    • Table 7.8 The Principal Activity Record, or What I Did Today 140
    • Table 7.9 Activity Analysis, or Separating the Wheat From the Chaff 146
    • Table 7.10 Meeting Planner 161
    • Table 7.11 Sample Meeting Agenda 164
    • Figure 7.1 Plan A—Meeting Room Arrangement for Information and Discussion 166
    • Figure 7.2 Plan B—Meeting Room Arrangement for Problem Solving 166
    • Figure 8.1 Hills High School Student Handbook Table of Contents 176
    • Figure 9.1 Teacher Performance Analysis Model 190
    • Figure 9.2 A Four-Phase Process for Dealing With the Unsatisfactory Teacher 195
    • Figure 9.3 Job Performance Evaluation 198
    • Table 10.1 Teacher Evaluation Performance Areas, Criteria, and Indicators 218
    • Table 10.2 Sources for Documentation 229
    • Table 10.3 Understanding Substantive Due Process—A Self-Check 233
    • Table 10.4 Understanding Procedural Due Process—A Self-Check 240
    • Figure 10.1 Sample Memo Language to Teacher About Observed Inadequate Classroom Discipline 245
    • Table 10.5 FRISK Checklist for Writing a Disciplinary Memo 246
    • Table 10.6 Sample FRISK Worksheet and Reference Guide 248

    Foreword: A Life of Managing by Wandering Around: A Tribute to the “Larry Lens”

    Managing things by wandering around came naturally to Larry Frase, coauthor of the original School Management by Wandering Around. After having travelled with Larry and his lovely wife, Maria, on trips to Portugal and New Zealand, and watching how Larry was an itinerant learner, how he let his curiosity about things go where they led him, and how he framed his observations after those incursions, I realized this was a man who was open to being amazed, amused, and absorbed.

    In retrospect, I think there was a lot of Larry in that first book, perhaps more than he actually was aware. Also, I think a leader who is successful with the idea of managing by wandering around has to suspend prestructuring everything so that he or she only sees what the structure lets in. Being open means not imposing too many conscious filters and trying to come to understand the unconscious ones that can be attributed to culture, gender, language, and past lived histories.

    Successful managing by wandering around is allowing oneself to be playful and supple, fluid, and without too much regard for the system one is in. Managing by Wandering Around is not for compulsive rule followers. It means seeing through your own lens but also seeing around those same lenses. It means allowing yourself to be curious and to avoid the requirement that everything has to have some larger and immediate purpose, or not insisting that meaning must always be known first, before observation.

    One good test for the leader doing MBWA is the “Larry lens.” The “Larry lens” is to just go with the flow (and flow was one of Larry's favorite academic pursuits) and see the paradoxes, contradictions, and humor in situations. When Larry found such intersections in his travels, he would retain their complexity through humor. He had a natural way of mimicking speech of those he found to be profound and profane. If one can find something to laugh about in the human condition, I think one is beginning to deal with the gray space between all of the blacks and whites framed by theory. Humor is one of the ways we see grey in the world, and it is a way we joke about some of the false blacks and whites of organizational life.

    So this is what I remember most about my times with Larry Frase. It was the laughter at the end of the day of wandering around the side streets of little towns on the Douro River of Portugal and driving down such narrow streets in Porto we had to pull in the side-view mirrors or have them sheared off. It was asking for directions and walking the parched dry furrows of the terraced rows of grapevines high above the river and questioning the growers about how and why water was important. It was learning and listening with mind, body, and heart.

    I think Bill Streshly and Penny Gray, both of whom knew Larry well, were the right pair to extend “Larry's lens” in this wonderful revision.

    Fenwick W.English
    R. WendellEaves Senior Distinguished, Professor of Educational Leadership, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


    Being a principal is primarily a thinking, walking, and talking job.

    —Neil McNiell and Ray Boyd, Australian school principals

    In the spring of 1987, Fenwick English asked our mutual friend and colleague Larry Frase if he would be interested in writing a book on Management by Wandering Around (MBWA). As superintendent of a small school district near Tucson, Arizona, he didn't know where he was going to find the time to complete such a project or even if he knew enough to fill a book. He wondered, how much can you say about wandering around? But the offer came at the right time. Larry had been considering hanging up his superintendent spurs and pursuing his original professional goal of joining the faculty at San Diego State University. So Larry decided to accept Fenwick's challenge, and in August of 1987, he went to work on the original best-selling version of this book. It was titled, simply, School Management by Wandering Around.

    After giving the potential contents of the book much thought, Larry realized that many of the administrative practices he had instituted in his school district—for example, the superintendent being in the schools once a week, the principals spending 40 percent of the school day in classrooms, the teachers maintaining a focus on curriculum and instruction, and the entire leadership team giving sincere attention to the mental health and professional readiness of staff—all were integral to the MBWA philosophy. However, he found the number of actual research studies on MBWA extremely sparse. When he looked for research to support the MBWA idea, he actually found only three studies that analyzed practices resembling MBWA. Consequently, Larry relied heavily on the empirical observations of very successful professional school administrators as well as his own practical experience—a decision that rendered the original book particularly valuable for real-world administrators learning to cope with the myriad problems of the modern school. This book preserves this worthy characteristic while at the same time bringing other aspects of MBWA preparation up to date.

    The first edition of School Management by Wandering Around was printed in 1990, and much to the publisher's and Larry's surprise, it was a big success. Larry began the task of updating the first edition but passed away suddenly before he could finish the job. We decided to pick up where Larry left off for two reasons: First, Larry was a loyal friend and colleague with a missionary's zeal for reforming the way schools are run. Second, and equally important, the fundamental concepts developed in the book are more important now than ever.

    The good news is that researchers have now produced numerous well-constructed research studies on MBWA or closely related topics—and all indicate that MBWA promotes desirable outcomes (see Chapter 5). We now have strong evidence that being out and about in classrooms is highly related to such sought-after outcomes as improved student discipline, higher teacher efficacy, higher teacher-perceived effectiveness of the school, higher opinions of teacher evaluation and professional development, and higher student achievement. The list goes on, as you will find in the ensuing chapters.

    When Larry was writing the first edition, his coauthor Bob Hetzel asked, “And what are principals supposed to do while wandering?” A darn good question, and we have answered it! We have included a brand-new section on “walk-through” classroom observation techniques, including descriptions of some of the most successful walk-through models. These powerful strategies have caught on nationally and internationally. This book gives principals the tools to get into classrooms and focus their attention on the “right stuff”—the curriculum. School leadership is an art, and we should not apologize for the passion, ardor, and other personal qualities of great school administrators. We believe Aristotle was right when he declared that poetry is truer than history.

    The figures and tables from this book are also available online at for downloading and use with individuals and school learning teams.

    In writing this book, we have made an effort to present practical approaches to the school administrator's job. We do this by guiding the reader through strategies for dealing with the nitty-gritty of school leadership, beginning with a definition of School Management by Wandering Around and a description of its potential for building great leaders and effective school organizations. Building on the strong research and practice base, we provide a well-defined system of “what to do” in classroom walk-throughs. In addition, we present practical discussions of the applications of this powerful leadership style, ranging widely from such topics as developing meeting agenda to supervising instruction, and from dealing with marginal teachers to creating safe campuses. In short, this book presents the best of MBWA research and the related administrative practices that have emerged over the past few decades.

    William A.Streshly
    Susan PennyGray


    We acknowledge here our dear departed friend and colleague, Larry E. Frase, who, along with Robert Hetzel, coauthored the original School Management by Wandering Around (1990). Larry's wife, Maria, has supported us throughout our work on this new version of that book.

    We especially appreciate the advice and criticism of Larry Marquand, an expert human resources consultant who grounded our discussions of personnel management in real-world experience. We also appreciate and acknowledge Kathy Juline, who helped assure the flow and readability of the book. A special “thank you” goes to our very talented artist, David Sullivan, who drew the cartoons for this book.

    Finally, we thank our respective families for their encouragement and assistance. Their unflagging support made the task of writing this book enjoyable.

    About the Authors

    William A. Streshly is Emeritus Professor of Educational Leadership and former Chair of the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, and Post-Secondary Education at San Diego State University. Prior to his service at the university, he served for 30 years in K–12 school districts in California, including 5 years as a high school principal and 14 years as superintendent of districts ranging in size from 3,000 to 25,000 students.

    As a Senior Lead Curriculum Management Auditor for Phi Delta Kappa International, Dr. Streshly has audited the curriculum and instructional operations of more than 40 school districts in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

    Dr. Streshly has authored or coauthored seven books on school law, education reform, school leadership, and educational labor relations; authored or coauthored scores of journal articles; and presented at numerous conferences, including refereed presentations at the National School Boards Association annual conventions and the National Organization on Legal Problems of Education annual conference.

    Susan Penny Gray has served for more than 35 years as an instructor and an administrator in Indiana and California. Until 2004, she was the Director of Curriculum Services in the San Marcos Unified School District in San Marcos, California, where she earned a statewide reputation as an expert curriculum leader.

    Currently, she is teaching graduate courses in curriculum and educational leadership for San Diego State University and is certified to train administrators and teachers in Conducting Walk-Throughs for Higher Student Achievement. In addition to several journal articles, Dr. Gray has coauthored with William Streshly two other books titled From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well and Leading Good Schools to Greatness: Mastering What Great Principals Do Well.

    Dr. Gray received her BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara, her MA from San Diego State University, and her PhD from the Claremont Graduate University–San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program. She received Phi Kappa Delta International audit training in Burlingame, California, in 1998. She has served on 18 major school district audits in 11 states.

  • Epilogue: Accepting Your Fate or Creating Your Destiny: The Choice of Leadership

    An ancient Eastern proverb declares that man can accept his fate or create his destiny. So can schools. Leadership is a choice between waiting for problems or pursuing goals, between being passive and reactive or being proactive and creative. School Management by Wandering Around is an approach to leadership based on the belief that leadership is visionary, goal focused, and people centered. It assumes improvement to a school, a classroom, or a personal leadership attribute is a lifelong journey. It is not aimless meandering. Rather, it is purposeful involvement with people to promote school improvement.

    MBWA is both diagnostic and prescriptive. Wandering around provides living data about who and what needs strengthening and support. Prescriptively, it is an opportunity to model desired behavior and reinforce people doing things right. MBWA isn't as much an open-door philosophy as a window into the classroom, school, and community. It is leadership that creates opportunity by searching out needs and creating alternatives rather than waiting for problems and hoping for solutions. It is precisely what is needed to tackle the challenges facing the public schools of the 21st century.

    MBWA school administrators know that tomorrow will come, and rather than wait for events to dictate what tomorrow brings, they initiate action to create the future they want. The choice is always theirs to make. Children can learn, teachers can teach, and principals can lead, if they choose to do so.

    Resource A: Elementary School Parent Survey

    Several areas of interest have been identified in the questionnaire below. We would like to have an indication of your feelings about these areas and the importance you attach to them. In the center of the page is a series of statements. Please indicate your agreement or disagreement that each statement is true of _____ School today by marking the scale to the left. On the right of each statement, please indicate the importance you attach to it. Each statement should have two responses. Space has been provided for your comments and suggestions below each section.

    Please circle the grade(s) that your child/children attend.

    A Strongly Agree1 Very Important
    B Agree2 Important
    C Disagree3 Somewhat Important
    D Strongly Disagree4 Not Important
    E Lack Info to Respond

    Resource B: Secondary School Parent Survey

    • Students in our school are generally respectful of each other.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Most students and teachers in our school maintain good working relationships.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Substance abuse in our school is not a serious problem.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Decisions made by our school reflect the concerns of parents.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school is doing a good job of helping my child understand his/her responsibilities as a student.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Teachers in our school are concerned about my child as an individual.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school helps my child understand and get along with other people.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Discipline is not a serious problem in our school.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Reports from our school concerning my child's progress are helpful.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Theft is not a serious problem in our school.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school places appropriate emphasis on the social development of my child.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school's physical plant is well-maintained.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our teachers appropriately emphasize developing critical thinking skills, that is, problem solving, analyzing, and so on.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our teachers are competent.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school provides my child with opportunities to reach full potential.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Cheating is not a serious problem in our school.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school places proper emphasis on grading.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school pursues innovative instructional methods.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school's extracurricular activities program is sufficient to meet the needs of my child.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Student participation in extracurricular activities is an important aspect of education at our school.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • The services provided by our school's counselors are supportive of my child's present needs.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Our school's health services are adequate.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Transportation services provided by our school meet my child's needs.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • Vandalism is not a serious problem at our school.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • My child looks forward to going to school each day.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • The overall morale of students in our school is good.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • It is easy to make appointments to see teachers in our school.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • The principal continually strives to improve the effectiveness of our school.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • The principal is available to listen to parent concerns.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • My child receives the personal attention needed in the classroom from his/her teachers.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • School rules and regulations affecting my child are reasonable.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • The electives offered at our school are sufficient to meet the needs of my child.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Don't know
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree
    • I have children in the following grades:
      • 7th Grade
      • 8th Grade
      • 9th Grade
      • 10th Grade
      • 11th Grade
      • 12th Grade
    • Rate by placing a check mark ($$) in the column that best represents your opinion concerning the quality of each of the following programs at our school:

    Resource C: Summative Teacher Performance Evaluation

    Teacher's Name _____ Date _____

    Grade/Subject _____

    Resource D: Teacher Self-Assessment Inventory of Skills and Interests

    Interpersonal Communication
    • Learning strategies for communicating to the community
    • Communicating and interacting with parents
    • Knowing when and where to refer student problems
    • Developing strategies to successfully involve classroom assistants
    • Initiating and building professional relationships with colleagues
    • Resolving teacher–administrator differences in a positive and effective manner
    • Other
    Developing Pupil Self-Esteem
    • Facilitating pupil self-concept and worth
    • Facilitating pupil social interaction
    • Instilling in the student the will to learn on his/her own initiative
    • Other
    Individualizing Instruction
    • Assessing and selecting appropriate materials and activities for individualized instruction
    • Creating and developing materials and learning options
    • Implementing and supervising individualized instruction
    • Other
    • Coping with the task of evaluating and communicating student progress
    • Selecting and specifying performance goals and objectives
    • Establishing appropriate performance standards
    • Constructing and using tests for evaluating academic progress
    • Involving students in self-evaluation
    • Diagnosing basic learning difficulties
    • Identifying students with disabilities who need referral or special remedial work
    • Other
    • Using methods of classroom discipline at appropriate times
    • Maintaining classroom control without appearing as an ogre to students
    • Identifying student attitudes as an aid to solving problems in and out of the classroom
    • Other
    Developing Personal and Professional Help
    • Evaluating your instructional methods and procedures.
    • Developing or modifying instructional procedures to suit your own strengths
    • Developing a personal self-evaluation method
    • Developing a greater capacity for accepting others' feelings
    • Other
    Organizing for Instruction
    • Using alternative methods in school organization—multiage grouping, continuous progress, open classroom, minicourses
    • Utilizing staff resources—team teaching, aides, flexible scheduling
    • Deciding on appropriate pupil grouping procedures for instruction within the classroom
    • Creating an optimum physical environment for learning
    • Managing classrooms in order to get maximum learning
    • Presenting information and directions
    • Deciding which teaching technique is best suited for a specific purpose
    • Using questioning procedures that facilitate learning
    • Gearing instruction to problem solving
    • Using multimedia
    • Providing for reinforcement of basic skills
    • Other
    Future Trends and Issues in Education
    • Keeping abreast of developments in your own subject matter area
    • Year-round schools
    • Mainstreaming disabled children
    • Alternative education programs
    • Vocational and career education
    • Teacher centers
    • Professional retraining for future labor needs
    • Legislation affecting teachers
    • Other
    Source: From School Management by Wandering Around, by L. Frase and R. Hetzel, 2003, Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing Company. Copyright by Scarecrow Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


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