Redefining school leadership: The first step

by on June 8, 2013

ISLI was formed with the belief that in order for every child to receive a high quality education, exceptional leaders are required to run schools of excellence. We see the role of a school leader as a truly influential one that is guided by a belief in the potential of every child. We need school leaders whose day-to-day responsibilities are closely related to the learning happening in classrooms – transformative leaders who go above and beyond the administrative duties of principals.

To find educators who shared this belief and wanted to develop their potential as transformative school leaders, we looked all over the country. More than a 100 applicants were put through a rigorous selection process. We tested for some of the key competencies of effective school leaders including instructional ability; the capacity to lead for results; the potential to build relationships and; most importantly, a student-focused mindset. On the 12th of this past month, we were proud to welcome 7 exceptional people who made it through the selection process to become the 1st cohort of ISLI Fellows. Each Fellow is an inspirational leader in their own right. They have founded or lead NGO-run schools, public private partnership schools and schools primarily serving minority groups- all in low-income communities.

The ISLI curriculum is based on 6 major competencies exhibited by effective school leaders from around the world. The Fellows explored these competencies, for 3 intensive weeks, with the help of a very notable faculty.

The first of these was the “Leadership for Results” strand. This strand was led by Shaheen Mistri, CEO of Teach For India and a renowned leader of educational equity in the country. Every Fellow explored equity in their lives, schools and in the country as a whole, while simultaneously developing a plan to champion equity in their own contexts.

The “People and Personal Leadership” strand was led by established corporate leadership development coach, Kanishka Sinha. Fellows developed tools and strategies to maximise their influence, in the institutions they lead, through deep self-reflection.

Ramya Venkataraman from McKinsey & Co. facilitated a strand called “Leadership for Results” which helped Fellows develop a mindset for data-driven decision making and identify essential strategies for problem solving and prioritisation.

The last week was dedicated to “Instructional Leadership” – a critical factor in the learning of students in any school. Fellows learnt how they can serve as coaches to their teachers on instruction in classrooms. This strand was led by Dr. Vladimir Kuskowski, an expert in international education and Margarita Florez from KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) in the US. Margarita is the founder and leader of a high-performing school in a low-income community in East Los Angeles. Interacting with a fellow school leader with a high success rate proved to be great learning experience for ISLI Fellows.

This 3 week residential training period that we call the “Academy” will form a foundation from which Fellows will journey into other components of the year-long Fellowship. ISLI draws inspiration from KIPP’s school leadership programmes and similar successful programmes from around the world. Crucially, the Fellowship is a mixture of theoretical training; practical implementation of learning interspersed with real-time feedback and coaching; and shadowing of successful school leaders. Our Fellows are now back in their schools, busy implementing their learning from the Academy. Soon, they will be leaving for the US to observe and learn from successful school leaders there, as a part of the KIPP residency component of the programme.

Being one of the first school leadership training institutes in the country, ISLI is a pioneer in this space. We are excited to take this journey with our Fellows, as we learn how best to serve the needs of school leaders in this very vast and diverse country. We are proud to have taken this first step towards solving yet another piece in the puzzle, towards achieving educational equity. If we believe that every child deserves an excellent education, we cannot ignore the need for exceptional leaders to run great schools.