The Public Interest

Principals, superintendents, and the administrator’s art

Kent D. Peterson & Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Spring 1985

SCHOOL CRITIC Emily Feistritzer may have erred when she asserted in mid-1984 that “nothing in American education is in greater need of reform than the way we educate and certify classroom teachers.” Perhaps she overlooked principals and superintendents, a much smaller cadre of men and women who wield even greater authority over the nation’s public schools and whose own education and certification are ordinarily erratic, oftentimes mediocre, and in some cases even dysfunctional. Practically never does one encounter a good school with a bad principal or a high-achieving school system with a low-performance superintendent. Ample research into the characteristics of particularly effective schools confirms the conclusions of common sense:

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