Recognizing that principals are essential to most school-improvement efforts, the revised law governing the federal government’s major source of dollars for public schools offers states and districts new funding possibilities for activities to promote effective school leadership. At the same time, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) also includes new provisions on evidence of funded activities’ effectiveness, the focus of this report.
This RAND report is an updated and expanded edition of a report originally released in April 2016. Reflecting expanded analysis and new information it describes:
- The opportunities under ESSA to support principals and other school leaders;
- The law’s four-tier framework for evidence designed for consideration and use by policymakers and educators;
- Six categories of leadership-focused activities consistent with the evidence provisions of the law: leader-evaluation systems; principal preparation programs; strategic staff management; professional learning; working conditions; and school improvement models;
- How states and districts can draw on evidence of effectiveness for branded programs by replicating the components of those programs;
- And how states and districts can use research-based practices to support principals and other school leaders.)
An accompanying commentary summarizes the report’s key points.
ESSA is the successor to the No Child Left Behind law, itself the re-authorization of the 1965 law promoting equal opportunity in public education. Its Title I section, the largest single source of federal funding for public schools (some $15 billion to $16 billion annually), provides for the newly named School Improvement Funds program, which (along with other parts of Title I) can be tapped for school leadership efforts. Another key ESSA feature is that it makes explicit that Title II “human-capital” management funding—often thought of solely in connection with teachers—can be used to support principals and other school leaders, including principal supervisors, too.