Transformational Leadership (6)

Benchmark Descriptors

Transforming: Practices reflect the ability to support individual growth and challenge inequity in the classroom and schoolwide.

  • School leaders engage in transformative leadership, in which they intentionally become critically aware of their own tacit assumptions and expectations and assess their significance and consequence in decision making. Transformative leaders engage in reflective processes that enable self-evaluation of personal values, beliefs, and experiences, and they intentionally promote the conditions and experiences for transformation in their staff. This includes nurturing the voices of others and building their capacity to take leadership in the school community.
  • Leaders have developed the ability to interrupt inequitable practice, to use inquiry as a lens for equity , to show courage and persistence, to develop social and emotional intelligences among staff and students, to learn from diverse forms of knowledge and experience, and to examine individual and institutional culture as it relates to equity and anti-bias. Because oppression restricts our ability to imagine new possibilities, transformational leaders must hold a proxy vision for what may be that is radically different from what is. Leaders engage the school community in investigations and discussions for personal and professional transformation and openly engage in inquiries about race, equity, and achievement.
  • Transformational leadership requires that everyone be an instructional leader. Instructional leaders focus on standards of practice and performance, pushing to ensure that the daily work of the school is at intellectually high levels. They ask hard questions about culture and practice, foster ongoing opportunities for collaboration, and respond in productive ways to persistent practices and behaviors that raise concerns. They also work to ensure a curriculum that is culturally responsive.
  • Decision making is inclusive and radically democratic, including structures such as rotating leadership; rotating staff chairs; student co-directors, and so on. Roles and responsibilities, though shifting, are clear. Staff actually plan the meetings; as teaching materials and specific pedagogies must be placed in the hands of those closest to the learner. All school constituencies, including students and parents, families and community members, have opportunities to gain leadership skills and are involved in substantive decision making both in the classroom and schoolwide. School decisions are made to support the school’s mission.
  • Shared vision and mission: The entire staff represents a collective voice when it comes to creating and maintaining an effective and equitable learning environment. The vision and mission are translated into everyday practice. Formal and frequent opportunities exist for staff to collaborate on success, challenges, and assessment results as they put into practice the vision and mission of the school. The vision and mission are periodically revisited and edited so they remain living, meaningful documents.
  • Teachers and leaders generate meaningful internal and teacher-led professional development, and they also seize external opportunities. Students have major input in curriculum and work collaboratively with teachers, and all teachers in the school have an administrative role in addition to their instructional responsibilities so that leadership is diffuse and transparent.
  • The School Site Council reflects all stakeholders, including teachers, parents, community members, and students. Its responsibilities include principal selection, supervision, and removal when necessary (with final approval by the superintendent), budget approval, and setting of the school vision. Parent leadership in school structures reflects the diversity of the school community.
  • Structures are in place to support these values, such as whole-school decision making, committee structures, leadership teams, Critical Friends Groups, instructional coaches. Structures are also in place to build the capacity of members of the school community to develop leadership, including opportunities for school staff and students to take leadership.

Developing: Practice is reflected in teacher planning and instruction.

  • School Core Values are explicitly stated and often referred to, but are not always integrated into school curriculum; some structures within the school provide space for understanding and integrating core values.
  • Teachers and leaders participate in professional development together. Teachers and leaders decide on curriculum that best serves students and teachers have ownership over course development.
  • Students engage in decision making through existing school structures like government, advisory, town meetings, and the like.
  • Parents are involved in the PTA or other parent organization. The school has made structure and space available for parent involvement but participations is limited.
  • Staff and parents discuss and collaborate to reduce the challenges associated with greater partnerships.
  • The school budget is widely shared with all members of the school community.

Early: Learning about and planning for the practice has become important to the teaching staff.

  • School core values are implicitly known but not explicitly stated in the school. The core values actually infuse few of the structures and processes in use.
  • Leaders allow teachers time for professional development but do not engage in it with them. Teachers have some decision-making authority regarding curriculum and school policy, but generally administrators have final say.
  • Traditional forms of student government exist in the school. Parents are invited to participate in school events and are welcome into the school at all times. Teachers sometimes engage students through culturally relevant pedagogies and content.


A Common Intent to Understand: Boston Pilot School Directors Talk about Diversity examines the ways Pilot Schools talk about diversity in their schools and the impact these discussions have on staffing, professional development, pedagogy, curriculum, and students. The CCE researchers presented this study at the annual meeting of the New England Educational Research Organization in April 2003.

This Sustainability checklist is based upon the ideas expressed in Small Schools, Big Ideas which examines the sustainability of CES schools, examining the principles and practices common to Essential schools that have experienced long-term durability and success.

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