Dr. Frederick Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, spent the past week working with both teacher leaders and executive leaders at The Public Education Foundation.
Dr. Hess, who also is the Senior Founding Fellow of The Public Education Foundation’s Leadership Institute of Nevada, focused on cage-busting leadership in his sessions with cohorts from the Foundation’s Executive Leadership Academy and Teacher Leader Academy. Under Dr. Hess’ direction, the participants engaged in a range of exercises to stretch their thinking in how they approach problems.
Among the areas he focused on in the Executive Leadership Academy were:
- Thinking about time, tools and talent as levers of improvement
- Creating opportunities through challenges
- Making rules, regulations and policies as engines of improvement
In education, Dr. Hess emphasized, leadership has two halves – instructional and cage-busting – but the cage-busting half tends to get ignored.
In one session, Dr. Hess told the participants that actions, not words, are what matters. For instance, teachers get frustrated when a principal is inconsistent when it comes to enforcing rules and policies.
For education leaders, Dr. Hess noted, it’s critical to know what problem you’re solving and also to combat the “culture of can’t.” Cage-busting, Dr. Hess said, can be distilled into four simple steps: define the problem, generate solutions, identify obstacles, and figure out the “how.”
During the Teacher Leader Academy, he concentrated on:
- Creating schools where teachers can do their best work
- Mobilizing teacher authority grounded in expertise and professional responsibility
- Learning to negotiate in both school systems and the larger currents of policy
In his time with the participants in the Teacher Leader Academy, Dr. Hess stressed the need to think like a problem-solver by identifying the problem, how to make the problem solvable and who can help them.
Cage-busting isn’t about shouting, Hess said, but it is about having a set of tools to unlock the door to create the best systems for your schools.
Dr. Hess cited three simple rules for “getting it done”: everyone is the hero, policy begins where trust ends, and actions drive culture.