With the start of school in Tennessee only a few weeks away, many students are excited to meet their teachers for the new school year. Teachers are so important to students’ experiences and success in the classroom, but there are additional educators in the building who are also critical to setting a positive culture of support and high expectations: school leaders (Leithwood and Jantzi, 1990). The term “school leader” can include principals, assistant principals, and other educators who supervise instruction and support operations at the school level. School leaders are the second most important in-school factor contributing to student success, right behind teachers (Louis, et al., 2010).

Given the importance of this role, the Tennessee State Board of Education is updating its policies on leader preparation and working with the Tennessee Department of Education to improve reporting and accountability for leader preparation programs in Tennessee. At the July 27 meeting of the State Board, members will vote on several items on final reading:

• A new Educator Preparation Rule that specifies reporting and monitoring requirements for programs that prepare teachers, leaders, and other educators such as counselors.
• A revised Educator Preparation Policy that goes into greater details about the structure of preparation programs.
• The Tennessee Instructional Leadership Standards (TILS). These standards had been included in a broader policy on leader preparation and are being moved to a standalone policy for easier reference. The TILS address both leader preparation and expectations for practicing school leaders.

Over the next few months, the State Board will also work to make information about leader preparation programs more readily available to preparation programs, school districts, and prospective school leaders. The State Board has produced the annual Teacher Preparation Report Card for several years.

The next edition of the Report Card, launching in February 2019, will include a module on leader preparation. Each program that prepares school leaders will be able to share information about their program, and the Report Card will include data and statistics such as the number of program completers over time and demographics. In the future, we hope to be able to report on the outcomes, such as passing licensure assessments, teacher satisfaction, and school growth, of leaders who complete each program.

Just like I remember the dynamic teachers I had as a student, I also remember the influential school leaders I worked with, like Dr. Pam Vaden in Williamson County. These school leaders set the tone for their staff, put expectations and practices in place for excellent instruction, all of which is key to creating a thriving school culture that results in better outcomes for our students.

School leaders need and deserve to be prepared to take on this important work on behalf of the students and teachers in their buildings. The State Board looks forward to continuing to work with leader preparation programs, the Tennessee Department of Education, and community groups like SCORE to ensure our school leaders are ready to face new challenges and opportunities every day.