Instructional Leadership in Action


At the Center for Educational Leadership we partner with courageous leaders in classrooms, schools and the systems that support them to eliminate educational inequities by creating cultures of rigorous teaching, learning and leading. Our vision is transformed schools empowering all students regardless of background to create limitless futures for themselves, their families, their communities, and the world.
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Recent Posts

The Importance of Relationships During Distance Learning

by UWCEL Jun 15, 2020


As schools began to transition to a new system of distance and remote learning, the initial focus was naturally on the nuts and bolts: How will we ensure students have access to the technology they need? What video platforms and tools should we use? What’s the right amount of screen time?

Once the reality of distance learning set in, however, educators like Sean McKenna, the principal of Vale Elementary in the Cashmere School District, found that addressing students’ and parents’ emotional needs was just as important.

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Bringing Teams Together to Get Better - No Matter What

by UWCEL May 26, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has illustrated just how vital a focus on the student experience and open lines of communication are — so student learning can continue, even with the disruptions. And that starts with our leaders at the top — leaders like Jeff Pelzel, the superintendent of the Newhall School District in Santa Clarita, California.  

Jeff spoke with Dr. Anneke Markholt, associate director of the Center for Educational Leadership, about what it means to lead a district at this time, how he's remained focused on his vision for student learning, and how he's planning for the school year.

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How Coaches are Improving Teaching in a Virtual Environment

by UWCEL May 18, 2020

The transition to distance learning has been unquestionably daunting for students, parents and educators. One side effect of the transition from chalkboards to Zoom or Teams screens has been a feeling of isolation for teachers, who are trying to navigate new educational norms without an in-person network of colleagues, mentors and coaches.

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What matters most to students and teachers for learning right now

by UWCEL May 4, 2020

In recent months, educators have had the daunting job of asking and answering, "What does teaching mean now?" They've had to make many impactful decisions and make them quickly — all while working together and teaching remotely.

Jody DeGroot, assistant principal at Bellarmine Prep High School in Tacoma, Washington, has similarly faced ongoing concerns about engaging students, assessing their learning, and supporting teachers with the right resources during the Covid-19 school closures. How has she navigated the situation? By asking guiding questions aligned with the 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning™.

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Principal as the Turning Point: EduTalks 2020

by UWCEL Mar 20, 2020

While the impact teachers make on learning is well-understood, there’s less appreciation for how principals can foster learning environments that empower students. 

In this six-minute video, Joanna Michelson, director of teacher leadership and learning at the UW Center for Educational Leadership (CEL), shares insights from the work she does with principals and district leaders. Drawing examples from the transformational leadership improvements at the rural Blaine School District in Washington state, she invites the audience to recall their own experiences as students — and to consider how much adult learning impacts student learning.

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CEL's Summer Reading List

by UWCEL Aug 20, 2019

In preparation for this new 2019-2020 school year, University of Washington Center for Educational Leader (CEL) experts kept up with their summer reading and shared six educational book recommendations. With a focus on equity, courageous leadership and student-centered learning, these books should be on your reading list as you enter the school year.

Let us know your favorite educational reads on Twitter @UWCEL.


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Apply by June 30, 2019 for the AASA National Principal Supervisor Academy

by UWCEL Apr 1, 2019

For the 2019-2020 school year, AASA, the school superintendents association, has again partnered with the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership to bring CEL's Principal Supervisor Professional Development Program to all central office leaders who support principals' instructional leadership growth as their primary responsibility.

The content for the AASA National Principal Supervisor Academy is based upon the Council of Chief State School Officers Principal Supervisor Standards, the latest research on adult learning and leadership development, as well as promising practices from districts across the country. Academy participants work from problems of practice, use cycles of inquiry, learn from case studies, and utilize virtual professional learning communities and virtual individual coaching.

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Hope to see you at AASA's 2019 National Conference on Education

by UWCEL Feb 4, 2019

The Center for Educational Leadership's executive director, Max Silverman, will take part in two panel discussions at the AASA 2019 National Conference on Education in Los Angeles. Silverman will engage in a facilitated dialogue about leadership strategies for closing achievement gaps and increasing success for all students, in a panel titled, "The Missing Link: Accountability With Staff Support." Then he will participate in a discussion on how to strengthen your principal workforce and improve their competencies as they become instructional leaders in a Thought Leader panel titled, "Great Principals Have Great Leaders."

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What successful principals do to support teaching practice [Podcast interview]

by UWCEL Nov 28, 2018

In a new podcast episode from Principal Center Radio, Justin Baeder interviews the Center for Educational Leadership's Anneke Markholt and Joanna Michelson about their new book, Leading for Professional Learning: What Successful Principals Do To Support Teaching Practice.

How do you improve the quality of learning opportunities for all students, particularly those students who have historically been marginalized? That is the central question galvanizing a vision around teaching practice and leadership practice.

Markholt and Michelson talk about what it takes to be a principal who strives to keep students at the center of teacher professional learning efforts. The discussion touches on how to land on very specific outcomes for teacher practice and student learning; the leader's role in assessing what is happening with instruction in a school; and building a leadership team of teachers. They make the case that professional learning is not an event; at its best, professional learning is an ongoing part of how people operate in their school.

Listen to the interview at Principal Center Radio.

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We hope to see you at the Learning Forward 2018 Annual Conference

by UWCEL Nov 26, 2018

Faculty from the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership will lead three sessions at the Learning Forward 2018 Annual Conference in Dallas. These sessions are ideal for anyone involved with designing or leading professional learning.

The Principal's Role in Leading Professional Learning
Monday, December 3rd, 2018, 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Joanna Michelson, co-author of the new book, Leading for Professional Learning: What successful principals do to support teaching practice, will lead a breakout session titled, "The Principal's Role in Leading Professional Learning." How do principals play a pivotal role in supporting teacher learning in the spirit of reciprocal accountability? Learn about key frameworks and practical tools designed to guide leaders’ work in observation, determining the need, sponsoring and following up on teacher professional learning. Leave with an analysis of your existing professional learning leadership practice in relation to a middle school case study that identified how the school principal successfully supported teacher learning. Audiences: District Level Professional Development Leaders, Principals, Assistant Principals, Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents.

Who Is Your Learner? Supporting Leadership Through Inquiry
Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, 8:30 am to 10:30 am

CEL's Sandy Austin, and Sharon Williams, previously with CEL and now chief academic officer at Holmes County Consolidated School District in Mississippi, will lead a breakout session titled, "Who Is Your Learner? Supporting Leadership Through Inquiry." Learn how the school support and improvement department of a large urban school district aligned its support of principals through the development of guiding principles and pivotal instructional leadership practices. Learn about the professional learning path that is leading to sustainable changes in leadership practice. Develop a plan to establish guiding principles and pivotal instructional practices that guide the development and learning of leaders at all levels of the organization. Austin and Williams will be joined by Sito Narcisse, chief of schools of the 88,000-student Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), Adrienne Battle, community superintendent with MNPS, and Michelle Maultsby-Springer with MNPS. Audiences: District Level Professional Development Leaders, District Office Personnel (Directors/Consultants for Instruction, Technology, Curriculum, Human Resources, and Assessment), Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents.

Examining Teacher Learning Culture: Leadership Reflection and Planning
Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, 9:30 am to 11:30 am

Joanna Michelson and Jennifer McDermott will lead a breakout session titled, "Examining Teacher Learning Culture: Leadership Reflection and Planning." Research continues to highlight that formal teacher professional learning rarely reaches the classroom in ways that make an impact on student learning. Join this session to interact with the Center for Educational Leadership's latest thinking about leaders' roles in fostering both culture and strategy for successful teacher learning. Use tools to analyze the culture for teacher learning in your system and strategize about next steps to address it. Audiences: District Level Professional Development Leaders, Principals, Assistant Principals, Teacher Leaders/Mentors/Team Leaders.

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