The myriad challenges facing school principals in the United States have been well documented, including limited opportunities for distributed leadership, inadequate training, and a lackluster pipeline for new leaders. Recently, the Fordham Institute teamed up with the London-based Education Foundation to seek a better understanding of England’s recent efforts to revamp school leadership. This joint effort led to a white paper, Building a Lattice for School Leadership; the short film, Leadership Evolving: New Models of Preparing School Heads; a fall 2014 conference that brought together nearly forty experts on school leadership from both countries; and a new report, Developing School Leaders: What the U.S. Can Learn from England’s Model, that reflects the discussions at the fall conference. This paper:
- Summarizes the key elements of the English system, as well as systems for training and credentialing leaders at several levels;
- Describes how changes in leadership development reflect broader education-policy shifts and how the English system currently benefits from a combination of top-down and decentralized models; and
- Examines potential implications for American public education and poses questions for policymakers and educators to consider.
There are obvious and significant differences between the two systems. With about twenty thousand schools, England has roughly the same number as California and Texas combined—all within a nation the size of Wisconsin. England’s central government in Whitehall makes most of the big education-policy decisions. Given the much larger and markedly more decentralized U.S. system, direct policy transfusions are unlikely. Yet England’s view of school leadership, combined with local models of support and development, may nonetheless provide a useful roadmap away from the present U.S. system.