This report, six years in the making, is the largest to date to confirm through quantitative data that effective school leadership is linked to student achievement. Teachers, principals, district leaders and state policymakers all affect student learning, it finds. But the study suggests that principals are also central figures in the effort. Schools with higher levels of student achievement are more likely than others to have principals who establish high expectations for students and teachers and are attentive to multiple measures of student success. They are also more likely to have cultures of “collective leadership” that encourage teachers and other stakeholders in the decision-making process.
The study further argues that districts and states also have a role to play in improving student achievement. Districts can support the development of professional learning communities for teachers, which, the data suggest, help teachers feel connected to a professional community and make them more likely to use instructional practices linked to improved student learning. State agencies can also help improve achievement by shifting their focus from compliance with policies to the support and development of educators and administrators.
There is, however, no one-size-fits-all formula when developing a culture of collaborative leadership, the researchers warn. Each district—every school within—must carefully consider a variety of options that fit its goals and unique circumstances.