Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning

Click here to download the full report:
 Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning

Implications for District Policy Making

  1. Develop district policies and clear expectations that support community and parental engagement. While policies have an impact, our findings also suggest that the impact will be limited if policies are promulgated without regard for incentives principals may need to increase the influence of parents and community members within schools. Incorporating indicators of parental and community involvement into principal assessment practices may be warranted.
  2. Develop a professional development policy and strategy for principals and district administrators. Support for principals is perceived as high in the districts we studied, but opportunities for significant professional development tend to be informal and unsystematic. While we know that adults learn best through experience, districts must provide a framework for individual and collective growth if they are to realize the full potential of their principals.
  3. Focus policies and strategies on district priorities that are connected to student learning. These priorities include instructional and curriculum leadership, uses of data, and teamwork and shared leadership focused on improvement objectives. Although these leadership practices are connected to student learning, until very recently they were weakly covered in most principal licensure programs causing many practicing principals to have limited knowledge in these areas.
  4. Individualize policies that provide support for schools. Recognize the importance of different school contexts, whether they are a result of demographic characteristics, administrator experience, school size, or school level. One-size-fits all policies will not lead to building confidence, and will be less likely to encourage schools to be reflective about their own capacities for redesigning their organizations to meet very local needs.
  5. Redesign human resource policies related to school leadership. While districts cannot control all aspects of the performance of school-based leaders, serious consideration should be given to recruitment practices, discouraging turnover, planning for effective leadership transition when turnover occurs, and redesigning principal evaluation procedures to focus on aspects of leadership that are most critical for student learning.
  6. Develop clearer policies governing data use, including priorities. These should include expectations for additional data collection at the district and school levels to ensure that relevant data are available to principals and teachers in a timely fashion.

Implications for District Practice

  1. Be crystal clear and repetitive when communicating the district's agenda for student learning. Effective superintendents are visible and articulate, but they also work with others in the district office so that the message is conveyed by all.
  2. Provide increased opportunities for administrators to collaborate on common work. Without collaboration, principals‘ collective sense of efficacy is unlikely to increase. In addition, as with teachers, collaboration is associated with increased job satisfaction and motivation.
  3. Provide a wide range of intensive opportunities for teachers and school-level leaders to develop the capacities they need to accomplish the district’s student-learning agenda. These opportunities will often take place in schools and be aimed at meeting pressing challenges unique to individual schools.
  4. Support principals, particularly those new to the district or school, in providing aligned forms of leadership distribution that build on existing strengths. Use distributed leadership support to help create a stronger sense of stability in the improvement agenda for the school and district.
  5. Provide assistance for teachers and school-level leaders in accessing, interpreting, and making use of evidence for their decisions about teaching and learning. Minimal support for evidence-based decision making in schools will not do much to influence student learning, but will take time. Increased support will be especially important for secondary school staffs, where state testing data is typically more limited, and data must be examined at the department, as well as the school and grade levels.
  6. Spend time in schools. Most principals report that the administrators who evaluate them rarely visit their schools (other district staff members, such as content specialists, may be more visible). Use school visits as well as district meetings to help build principals‘ sense of efficacy or confidence in their abilities to accomplish the priorities for student learning agreed on in the district.
  7. Differentiate the support provided to schools in light of schools’ individual priorities, strengths, weaknesses, and circumstances. One-size-fits-all district interventions are typically of much less value to schools than many districts believe.
  8. Gather data about how well district policies are working at the school level. Work continually to increase synergy among district policies, procedures, and practices aimed at guiding and supporting the district‘s agenda for student learning.
  9. Ensure coordination and coherence in support for schools across different organizational units at the district level. Schools benefit from coordinated support provided in relation to district goals and based on shared understandings of schoolimprovement plans and needs
  10. Prioritize assistance and support to secondary schools. Secondary school administrators need significantly more support in all areas of practice that we have discussed in this and previous sections.

< < Previous | Next > >