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 publication 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.

In 2017, the publication was expanded to include an appendix describing key features of 17 evidence-based endeavors to strengthen school leadership. A companion guide explaining logic models necessary for Tier IV evidence was published in 2017 as well.

 Points of Interest

  • There is substantial research evidence demonstrating that school leaders are a powerful driver of student outcomes. This evidence base justifies ESSA’s investment in school leaders as part of school improvement.
    There is substantial research evidence demonstrating that #school leaders are a powerful driver of student outcomes.
  • To qualify for some funding programs under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, states and districts are urged to consider evidence of effectiveness
    For funding under some Every Student Succeeds Act programs, activities need to consider evidence of effectiveness. #education
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act defines four “tiers” of evidence of effectiveness for certain funded activities; some funding is available only for activities in the top three.
    Every Student Succeeds Act: Some $ ask for evidence of effectiveness #education
  • A RAND report identifies six categories of school leadership activities with top levels of effectiveness evidence tied to funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
    Report: 6 kinds of #education leadership activities consistent with ESSA evidence standards.

 Supplementary Materials

  • Key findings
  • Logic Models for Selecting, Designing, and Implementing Evidence-Based School Leadership Interventions
  • Summary of Tiers I-IV evidence on the effects of school leadership-improvement activities
  • This online guide developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers is designed to help states use new funding opportunities under ESSA to support leadership.