Good News for Delaware’s Principals and DASL’s SAM Project
If you asked most students and even teachers what their principals’ duties are, they would probably give you a laundry list of administrative tasks. In my own experience, my principal was responsible for everything from grant-writing to lunch duty. But most people would agree that a principal is first and foremost the instructional leader of a school.
That’s the philosophy behind the national SAM (School Administration Manager) Project, which aims to free principals from the shackles of their desk and get them into classrooms to support their teachers, ultimately leading to greater student achievement. Delaware joined the project after finding that principals on average spent less than 15% of their time on instruction, instead being wrapped up in issues of management and administration. Through the SAM project, principals reflect on where their time is going and receive coaching and support on delegation and time management. They also receive administrative support either through an additional staff person or reassigning of responsibilities.
While the project is still relatively new, the initial results are quite impressive. Washington-based research organization Policy Studies Associates studied 181 schools nationwide (including schools in Delaware) participating in the national SAM project. They found that principals in the program did in fact increase the amount of time they spent observing classes and supporting teachers. On average, one year into the program they were able to dedicate an extra 8.5 hours a week (a full school day) to “instructional leadership.” Two years into the program, they were able to spend an additional 26 hours a week on supporting teachers. Perhaps more importantly, the program also improved the effectiveness of the existing administrative staff, helping to sustain the gains made.
The SAM project is administered through University of Delaware’s Academy for School Leadership (DASL), which provides much of the training for the state’s aspiring administrators. Delaware has been part of the SAM project since 2008-2009. The program was expanded in 2009 after Delaware won Race to the Top, with districts opting to allocate almost $1 million to the project. According to DASL, the program is in 29 schools in 15 districts.