Source: International Journal of Leadership in Education
In Israel, the Ministry of Education determines all aspects of educational policy, including teachers’ initial teacher education, licensing and professional development. As part of the New Horizon educational reform, the Ministry announced in 2010 a new plan for the professional development of teachers in Israel. The Ministry assigned a mediating role to its district managers and superintendents, placing them in charge of introducing and implementing this policy. The current study describes the findings of a qualitative, narrative-based research, which examined the attitudes of 25 Ministry of Education district managers and superintendents regarding the implementation of the new professional development policy.
Interviewees noted both the major advantages of this policy, e.g. organizing the professional development process and including all of the teachers, as well as its many disadvantages, e.g. overburdening the teachers, the lack of high-quality teacher trainers, etc. This study sheds light on the process of implementing a top-down reform in teachers’ professional development. Moreover, it sheds light on the main tasks of superintendents as educational leaders.
Education systems are complex entities; therefore, introducing and implementing new policies require the cooperation of numerous involved parties. In many cases, these parties are educational leaders of various positions and ranks within the system. In the later years of the 1990s, a new emphasis was placed on the role of the school principal as a local leader, who has the ability to exert substantial influence on the school and on the teachers. The general consensus in the educational discourse regarding the definition of school principal as leader had specific implications for practices in the field of education.
More recently, educational discourse has come to consider additional educational leaders, at the national and district levels, such as district managers and district superintendents. Professionals in these positions, which in Israel constitute the midrange-level leadership, were assigned the responsibility of implementing new educational policies. The current study contributes to this discourse, as it describes the important roles and perceptions of senior members at the district level regarding the implementation of a major educational reform in Israel, one which established the framework for the ongoing professional development of teachers. Based on the findings of the current study, we recommend re-examining the kind of training that is relevant to the roles and functions of midrange educational leadership. What should such training include? How can the members of this group overcome the dilemmas related to the duality of their role, which requires them to simultaneously consolidate and delegate the implementation of new policies? We recommend that future studies attempt to address these issues. Furthermore, while the current study examined the perceptions of senior members of district teams as representatives of midrange-level leadership regarding the implementation of a professional development policy, we suggest that future studies, both in Israel and worldwide, consider the dilemmas related to midrange-level leadership in relation to the implementation of other types of reform.