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Who are the thought leaders in educational leadership?

Quick, tell me how much you know about the people in the following list:

  • Luvern L. Cunningham
  • Barbara Jackson
  • William L. Boyd
  • Wayne Hoy
  • Martha McCarthy
  • Flora Ida Ortiz
  • Jerry Starrat
  • Cecil Miskel
  • Catherine Marshall
  • Karen Seashore Louis

Maybe you recognize a few of those names? None? Well, those are the most recent recipients of the Roald F. Campbell Lifetime Achievement Award, an award given by UCEA “for the purpose of recognizing senior professors in the field of educational administration whose professional lives have been characterized by extraordinary commitment, excellence, leadership, productivity, generosity, and service.”

I know many of those folks personally. They are some of the brightest, most dedicated educators I could ever know. They are incredible scholars and thought-leaders in the field of educational leadership. They are VERY deserving of that award. But, let me ask you this…Have YOU ever heard them speak? Ever read anything they wrote? If not, why not?

My guess is that YOU have very little familiarity with the folks on that list. If my guess is accurate, then why is that the case? After all, YOU are leaders in the field of education and these are thought leaders in the field of educational leadership. Maybe the folks on that list are older and near the end of their careers so you’d be more familiar with some of the newer thought-leaders amongst the education leadership professoriate? Take a look at this next list:

  • Jeffrey Maiden
  • Jay P. Scribner
  • Linda Skrla
  • Julie Mead
  • Roger Goddard
  • Cynthia Reed
  • Gerardo Lopez
  • Andrea Rorrer
  • Suzanne E. Eckes
  • Meredith Honig
  • Thomas Alsbury
  • Jeffrey Wayman
  • Sara Dexter

Any of those names familiar? Those are the most recent recipients of the Jack A. Culbertson Award also presented by UCEA “annually to an outstanding junior professor of educational administration in recognition of his/her contributions to the field.” There at least a couple of folks on that list that I would count as friends; something beyond mere acquaintances. They, too, are super smart, incredibly dedicated educators of sitting and aspiring school leaders. Here, though, I’m guessing you have even less familiarity.

There is a lot of blame to be thrown around. However, my point here is not to throw anyone individually under the bus. Consider, though, the following points:

  1. If professors of educational leadership truly want to be the thought leaders and to be a part of any sort of school change process, they need to free themselves from the shackles of tradition. They need to stop publishing their high-quality, thoughtful work in journals that nobody who does the work of school leadership reads. They should make it a point to publish in open access journals;  open access is not mutually exclusive from peer-reviewed. Also, they should disseminate their ideas through blogs so they don’t have to wait for the ridiculously long lag-time associated with publishing in journals. My educational leadership professorial colleagues such as Scott McLeod, Justin Bathon and Bruce Baker disseminate their knowledge beautifully and regularly on their blogs. They also regularly engage with educators and educational policy-makers through Twitter. They should be beacons for the future of the educational leadership professoriate.
  2. While we wait for educational leadership professors to heed my advice (ha!), YOU all might try to track down some of the work of the folks on those lists above. If you’re serious about school reform, stop reading pop-psychology and marketing books written by people who wouldn’t know John Dewey from John Stamos. If you can find it, also go read work by other amazing scholars of educational leadership not on that list: Andy Hargreaves, Ken Leithwood, Joseph Murphy, Michael Fullan, Tom Sergiovanni, etc.  If you consider yourself a school leader and those names don’t at least ring a bell, I submit that you’re doing it wrong.
  3. The organizations of professors of educational leadership need to step up their efforts at knowledge dissemination. I note that next week is the annual conference of NCPEA. What’s that? Well, it’s only one of the two major national organizations (along with UCEA) of professors of educational leadership in the U.S.  Want to know what will be happening at that conference? Yeah, me too. Problem is, that organization does not even make the conference program public. Here’s all you can know without actually registering and getting a print copy of the program. There will surely be some very interesting conversations and presentations at the NCPEA conference, but nobody will see or hear those except for those attending. There will be no live streaming of any sessions, and I’d be surprised if even one attendee sends out a single tweet from the conference. UCEA is getting a little better about knowledge dissemination. If you look at the top right of their website, they’ve begun to dabble with social media (thanks, largely, to Scott McLeod’s usual hard work and pestering).
  4. We have lots of silos to break down. The scholar-practitioner divide/spectrum needs to be obliterated. I know there is value to professors of educational leadership conferring to discuss their work, hence the UCEA annual convention and the NCPEA annual conference. I know there is value to school leaders conferring to discuss their work, hence the NASSP, NAESP, AASA, ASCD, NSBA, etc. conferences. But, we need to bring these folks together, virtually and/or f-2-f. One of my goals this year is to work with Scott, Justin and the other folks at CASTLE to bridge some gaps; to bring together thought-leaders and leaders.

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