Best Questions — Starting a School, Part II

Leadership, Learning, Starting a School

I’ve volunteered to take the lead at putting together a plan for recruiting, interviewing and evaluating prospective principals for our new elementary school here in DC (scheduled opening, August 2011), and thus far it’s been a really useful process of trying to surface the “best questions” one should ask to get the fullest sense of a person and his or her philosophy about education and how best to help children learn.
As is always the case when I’m trying to get to the root of an issue in education, I begin by calling Kim Carter, the head of the QED Foundation and, as I said recently on Twitter, the finest thinker/doer I have met in K-12 education work. Kim pointed me to the work of The Haberman Foundation, which has done some great research on teachers who make a difference. She also said the core question to ask should be: What do you think are the most important factors that determine student success?
I like it, and I was also thinking of asking the following. Please check them out and offer any and all feedback and new ideas so we can be sure to get the process as finely tuned as possible.

  • Which ideas/approaches to learning have had the greatest influence on you, and why?
  • What are the core questions/riddles that drive you professionally?
  • What was your most powerful personal learning experience? How would you go about creating a similar environment and similar opportunities for our students?
  • What’s your personal motto?
  • When you interview potential staff members, what traits are you looking for?
  • What’s your vision of the ideal school?
  • What is your most marked characteristic?
  • If you could change something about your approach to work, what would it be?
  • If you could replicate something about your approach to work, what would it be?
  • What core habits of mind & work will you want to see our graduates embody, and in what ways do you intend to help ensure that they do?
  • Describe your ideal system for measuring student outcomes.
  • Describe your ideal system for evaluating educator effectiveness.
  • What do you feel are the core attributes of an optimal learning environment?
  • If we’re having this conversation five years from now, what would you like to be able to say are the five things you’ve done successfully — and how will you know you’ve succeeded at them?