District and school administrators are responsible for providing instructional leadership and developing, implementing, and evaluating district and school systems and policies. District administrators include superintendents and central administration staff responsible for finances, assessment, special education, and the like under the direction of a school board. School administrators mainly include principals and assistant principals.
District and school administrators play a critical role in improving the learning environment and overall academic progress of their students. Without their leadership, creating meaningful learning environment improvements is difficult.
District superintendents and central administration decide on building sizes, budget allocations, and the selection of staff. Additionally, they communicate the school district’s mission, training priorities, and promotional activities; such activities play a part in encouraging change. Within each school, the principal plays a central role in providing leadership, articulating goals and behavioral expectations of teachers, and supporting staff in developing an effective school. When teachers and staff are supported, students are supported.
Administrators can call attention to the importance of school climate at board and staff meetings, providing leadership for an inclusive team to shape a collective vision for school climate and creating a long-term plan for realizing this vision. This work might include implementing special measures to ensure the protection of groups at risk of victimization at school, facilitating interdisciplinary teaming among teachers, demonstrating high academic expectations for all students, and managing a comprehensive school climate improvement plan. The process should actively involve students, staff and families in the climate improvement process.
The actions of principals are critical for improving learning environments. Effective principals balance fostering strong and supportive relationships among students and staff with the need to maintain high expectations. In particular, they work on nurturing relationships by speaking with teachers and students every day; finding ways to bring teachers and families together for fun activities that everyone enjoys; engaging teachers, students and families in problem solving with a focus on high expectations; contributing to students’ growing autonomy and sense of purpose; celebrating the short- and long-term wins; and selecting staff based on the extent to which they balance their deep caring for students, respect for families, and demand for excellence and autonomy.
Dwyer, K. & Osher, D. (2000). Safeguarding Our Children: An Action Guide. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, American Institutes for Research.
Nixon, C. & Gray, C. (2007). Keeping Students Learning: School Climate and Student Support Systems. Paper presented at the 2010 Tennessee LEAD Conference.