Instructional Leadership in Action

Max Silverman

Max Silverman is the executive director of the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) where he provides leadership for improving school systems focused on equitable outcomes for students.
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Recent Posts

An interview with Ellen Dorr about her strong commitment to educational equity and system design

by Max Silverman Sep 27, 2018

In this inaugural interview of The Throughline, Max Silverman speaks with Ellen Dorr (@ellenjdorr) about her strong commitment to educational equity and system design.

Ellen Dorr serves as the chief technology officer for the Renton School District in Washington, where she oversees technology services including customer service, infrastructure and digital learning. She leads the team to provide the resources and supports to empower educators to create inclusive, equitable instruction in classrooms as well as increase efficiency and effectiveness across the district.

Max Silverman: Ellen, as you know, here at CEL (the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership) we focus on how adults in schools – and the central office where you work – create learning environments for students that are inclusive, engaging and ultimately lead to student ownership of their learning. Describe for our readers what you would love to see when you walk into a classroom or learning environment that has these characteristics.

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Is student-centered the latest catchphrase? Not if we can help it.

by Max Silverman Sep 25, 2018

Lately, I have been getting very excited as I hear more and more leaders and organizations talk about “student-centered initiatives.” Often I hear this phrase about putting students in the center only to later feel disappointed when the follow-up conversations are really about putting student data in the center or, worse yet, launching another professional learning initiative masquerading as student-centered.

Are we making the idea of being student-centered as trite as the other catchphrases that came before? Can it be that the new student-centered miracle is actually the same one that was Common Core-based, or focused on personalized learning, or a must-have for your teacher accountability system? I don’t raise these questions to demean the great work that many in the education field are doing to ensure that improvement efforts remain focused on students. Instead, I want to push for the term student-centered to have real meaning. Our field’s understanding of student-centered should be powerful enough to change how students learn and what we accept as outcomes not only for students, but also for teachers, school leaders, and central office leaders.

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Central Office Needs to Support, Not Just Manage Schools - Here is How You Can Help

by Max Silverman Mar 16, 2016

The work of educators is changing. First, teachers had to adapt to new classroom expectations and accountability requirements. Next, principals had to think beyond just managing a school and become instructional leaders. Now, central office needs to take up the challenge and offer new approaches to help principals and teachers improve instruction.

Over the last three years, the Center for Educational Leadership together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has worked with central office leaders to find new ways to support principals as instructional leaders and improve student learning.

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Closing the Achievement Gap Requires Closing the Gap Between Schools and Central Offices

by Max Silverman Mar 9, 2016

In many ways the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) marks a departure from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But at least in one way it stays the course: the notion of school turnaround is alive and well.

Under ESSA, the federal government still requires states to identify their worst-performing schools and come up with a plan to make them better. If ESSA plays out like NCLB, then schools and districts will be working mightily to stay just above the line that triggers a turnaround — an aspirational low bar for sure.

As part of these efforts, schools and districts will be reaching out for the helping hands of a variety of newly minted — or as is often the case, re-minted — programs and solutions.

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3 Things All Principals Need From Their Central Office To Be Successful

by Max Silverman Jan 28, 2016

A quick scan of education news headlines shows: the role of school principal is less satisfying and attractive than it has ever been. Whether you look at principal job satisfaction surveys or the data on principal tenure, education leaders need to wake up and figure out how to make the principal job not only doable, but doable in a way that positively impacts student learning.

To do this, many systems focus on principal evaluation and the role of principal supervisors. But we believe that school systems have to take a broader look at how central offices need to work differently to support principals. That is why we are excited to release version two of our Principal Support Framework. This updated version continues its focus on how central office leaders can best support principal success, but includes critical updates including:

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How to Set Up Principal Supervision That Works for Principals

by Max Silverman Nov 3, 2015

Apart from Common Core, nothing has changed the face of education in this country over the past few years quite as much as the drive to evaluate educators and hold them responsible for results. Since 2009, over two-thirds of states have made significant changes to how teachers are evaluated.

From a focus on teacher performance the spotlight quickly moved to principals and their role in supporting teacher practice. Recently, we have seen increasing recognition of the fact that principals often don’t have the tools and support to help teachers — shining a light on central offices and their support for principals’ instructional leadership efforts.

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What Does it Look Like When Principal Supervisors are Effectively Coaching Principals?

by Max Silverman Nov 10, 2014

That is the question over 60 principals, principal supervisors, and other central office leaders from across the country came to discuss and learn about at last week’s Leading for Effective Teaching meeting in Denver. The meeting, part of the Leading for Effective Teaching Project that CEL is leading with generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, included participants from 13 districts and charter management organizations (see box).

In presentations and break out sessions, CEL staff established the basics of a successful coaching partnership between principal supervisor and principal and highlighted some of the newest project findings. In a next step, participants put theory into action and observed Denver Public School instructional superintendents, the school system's prinicpal supervisors, coaching principals in schools.

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Video Library Added to Project Resources

by Max Silverman Feb 27, 2014

With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Center for Educational Leadership has created a video library to support school districts and charter management organizations as they implement system changes and individual practices to better support principals as instructional leaders.  Videos on this channel feature central office leaders and principals reflecting on strategies they’re implementing in principal support, the successes they’ve experienced, and what they’re learning in the process.  This dynamic collection of video, intended to support group or individual learning, is available at  https://vimeo.com/channels/lfet.
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Shelby County ILD Initiative Featured in the News

by Max Silverman Nov 8, 2013

In Memphis, Principals Are Being Coached Like Executives

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Principal James Shaw is in the fight of his career at A.B. Hill Elementary. Last spring, two years after he arrived, test scores at the South Memphis school dropped. And this fall, just before the first nine-week report card, he got word that nearly half the fifth-graders had failed math.

The era when grades were a teacher’s problem is over. In the data-driven accountability that now rules in public schools, principals are responsible for grades, plus they are expected to have enough tricks up their sleeves to help every teacher improve.

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Principal Support Framework Action Area Resources and Tools

by Max Silverman Nov 6, 2013

This collection of conceptual and practical resources and tools is intended to help districts and CMOs as they use the Principal Support Framework (PSF) and the PSF District Self-Assessment and Planning Template to implement new systems and practices that support principals as instructional leaders.  Contributed by the Partnership Sites to Empower Effective Teaching and supplemented with tools from the Center for Educational Leadership and Break the Curve Consulting, these materials represent the current state of practice and were selected for their value in helping sites conceptualize, design, problem solve, and/or align the work of selecting and supporting principals as instructional leaders.  You'll find helpful examples of instructional leadership frameworks, templates for job descriptions, an extensive set of tools for principal hiring and instructional leadership planning, principal effectiveness scorecards, tools for teacher leader development, and many other resources that support critical aspects of the process.
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