Your Principal Probably Isn’t Very Sharp

responsibility? WAHHHH!

A hearty thanks goes out to the National Association of Secondary School Prinicipals for advocating less administrative responsibility for their members. The less they do, the better – until we start making better administrators.

From Flypaper:

Richard Flanary, the director of professional development services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP for short), who was quoted in Thursday’s Education Daily (available to subscribers only, of which I think there are about 74) responding to John McCain’s call for greater authority for school principals:

“Certainly we support greater spending autonomy, but there needs to be more clarity on the criteria on which principals make these decisions. Principals already  have very busy schedules, and I would hate to think that they would get caught in a situation where they are the purveyors of funds.”

Yes, that would be terrible for the managers of large organizations (in this case, high schools) to “get caught in a situation” where they are responsible for making funding decisions! But why stop at schools? Someone should alert the private sector that it’s stressing out its managers by expecting them to manage budgets. After all, managers already “have very busy schedules.”

You get the point. This is the primary lobby for high school principals, and it’s lobbying against giving principals more authority.

The NASSP is a funny bunch – that they’re the “primary lobby for high school principals” is the truth. The rub is that they’re absolutely awful at it, and in any given month, the NASSP exposes more about the inadequacy of administrators to lead our schools than any education advocate could do in 10 lifetimes.

I excoriated the NASSPismires re: Two Million Minutes, a film about which they issued a useless, ill-conceived rebuttal that embarrassed public education in the United States. This time, as Flypaper points out, they’ve done it to themselves.

And, of course, I agree with them. The average secondary school principal has the mathematics skills of the average 10th grader in my county. Why, then, would anyone want them messing around with money?

Before you write me a nasty, pseudo-scathing e-mail, remember: I’m not saying that all principals roam the halls unburdened by academic knowledge. There are very good, accomplished principals who know both management and scholarship, and there are terrible ones. That’s the way distribution goes.

So… if you’re a principal reading this and your mouth is starting to froth, relax. You’re probably not the one who can’t pass a trig test, it’s just every other principal you know – right? Right?

These charges aren’t speculation, either [page 19 of PDF]. One thing principals, taken as a whole, can’t do is math. They do beat out librarians/archive scientists, social workers, and those who declared “other” Social Science majors.  Even the English Lit. majors stomp them by 20 points on Quant.

From ETS’s GRE page, a summary of the Quantitative section of the exam:

Quantitative Reasoning — The skills measured include the test taker’s ability to

  • understand basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis
  • reason quantitatively
  • solve problems in a quantitative setting

Again, the average 10th grader in Otsego County, NY can thump the average principal in our nation in a head-to-head math matchup. [If you're really curious about the Quant section of the GRE, check out a practice test.]

The NASSP won’t address this glaring inadequacy. They won’t release a statement on it, they won’t make a push to raise the academic achievement of their principal core, and they won’t try to recruit higher-achieving students to become administrators.

The only debate here is the question of where, exactly, their heads are – stuck in the sand, or stuck elsewhere [hint: their heads, apparently, aren't stuck in books].

I received an e-mail a few days ago about some research into problems with high school principals; they’re canvassing principals to find out about the “problems HS principals face.” I’d be more than happy to go over some of those problems with them, because God knows the NASSP won’t say a word about it.

UPDATE at 8.11pm, July 22:

To further demonstrate how badly out of touch the NASSP is with its own professionals’ inadequacy, the front page of their website has a piece called “The Elephant in the Room.”

That “Elephant?” No, not the total inability of most principals to write coherently and do math beyond converting fractions to decimals.

The “Elephant in the Room” is, of course…

… “Unauthorized Use of Staff Computers.”

One Response to “Your Principal Probably Isn’t Very Sharp”

  1. Ugh… and here in MI not all of the principals at private or charter schools have their ed. admin. certification.

    BTW, I gave you an award. Go check out my blog. :-)


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