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Building the Foundation for Effective School Leaders May 16, 2012

Posted by latinoschoolleaders in Principal Effectiveness.
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By Feliza Ortiz-Licon, Regional Director, Education, NCLR

Within educational circles, the academic under-performance of Latino children is a conversation that has been going on for 50 years.  Recently, though, the massive surge of Latino children in the K–12 educational system has elevated this in-house dialogue to a national discussion.  Recent Census figures frame a prediction of the “browning of America” by 2050; currently, nearly one in four American kids is Latino.  In California, Latinos account for 51% of the state’s youth population, making Latino children the majority.  The Latino community is young and growing quickly.  Our youth will make up the country’s future labor force, consumer base, taxpayers, and voters.  This startling reality has raised the stakes for educators and policymakers to properly educate Latino students, solidify the Latino educational and leadership pipeline, and work toward reversing the downward academic trends of Latino youth.

Addressing both the widening achievement gap and the increasing dropout rate of Latino students requires the voice of Latino school leaders.  To engage these leaders in advocating for Latino students, NCLR developed the National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL),  an intensive advocacy training institute for school executive directors and principals.  NILSL seeks to improve the quality of education afforded to Latino students by impacting educational reform efforts at the local, state, and national levels.  It will also bridge the divide between practice and policy by providing school leaders the tools they need to advocate for polices and reform efforts that positively impact Latino and English language learner (ELL) students.

Besides having years of professional experience, NILSL principals are also culturally and linguistically competent.  They share a common background with their student population and have the ability to facilitate the school–home connection in relevant and sensitive ways.  Moreover, they are working in schools that were developed out of a need for better educational options for Latino children and are implementing strategies that are helping students achieve high levels of success.

We know that teachers and school leaders are the single most important factors in determining students’ academic outcomes.  Good teaching is a matter of practice, commitment, and high expectations, but cultural and linguistic harmony between teachers and students can also influence Latino students and enhance their academic performance.  The principals’ pragmatic understanding of schools, coupled with their knowledge of tiered policies and Latino issues, provides NCLR an opportunity to capitalize on their collective experiences and help fill the gaps in the leadership pipeline.

As NILSL participants gain knowledge of current policy issues, advocacy practices, and effective programmatic approaches, they will return to their respective school sites and implement learned practices to recruit, retain, and cultivate future school leaders.  These future school leaders will, in turn, continue to uphold and promote a Latino student agenda aimed at educational equity and improved outcomes.

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