It is a good idea to keep school administrators in touch with the classrooms on a regular basis.
We're intrigued by the idea of West Virginia Senate Bill 80, which mandates that all school administrators with a teaching certificate spend three days in the classroom every year.
The concept could potentially save money by putting administrators in classrooms when substitute teachers aren't available. According to the West Virginia Department of Education, the average substitute teacher in 2009-10 was paid $123.47 a day. The bill did not address paying administrators extra for classroom duty.
There is a view by some in school district central offices that the move would lessen productivity of the school system by taking days away from administrators who already have work to do.
Still, there is value to having administrators stay in touch with what goes on in classrooms. The issues that arise, the technology, the very quality of the children all change over time. What works now may not be what worked when an administrator was in the classroom decades ago. Being put into the classroom means keeping in touch with front-line skills, keeping those skills sharp and being able to understand what teachers go through today.
Indeed, in Tyler County, Superintendent Robin Daquilante said administrators spend time in the classrooms even without a new state law. Principals in the county are required to spend at least one period each semester teaching in a classroom.
We'd caution the state not to make the law too far reaching. Spending too much time away from administrator's duties to fulfill a new state requirement could lead to unintended consequences in a loss of oversight and control, which still must be the main focus of any administrator. Nor should the rule push too deeply into the administrative ranks. Three days a year shouldn't be too much. Administrators surely attend conferences and meetings within their districts and with professional organizations during the year, all of which take them away from their desks but all of which are supposed to be in service to their administrative role. Meetings and professional conferences are all aimed at improving the job the school district leadership performs.
And the main reason for education systems is delivered in the classroom, so we'd view putting administrators out of the office for a few more hours a year by putting them before students to be just another job improvement function.