[Note: A new 2021 synthesis How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research​offers updated recommendations on effective principal practices.​]

This Wallace Perspective summarizes a decade of foundation research and work in school leadership that identifies what effective school principals do. “Principals can no longer function simply as building managers tasked with adhering to district rules, carrying out regulations and avoiding mistakes,” the report suggests. “They have to be (or become) leaders of learning who can develop a team delivering effective instruction.”

The report concludes that principals who are effective leaders practice five key actions particularly well:

1. They shape a vision of academic success for all students.
2. They create a climate hospitable to education.
3. They cultivate leadership in others.
4. They improve classroom instruction.
5. They manage people, data and processes with the goal of school improvement.

Each of these five tasks needs to interact with the other four for any one to succeed. When all are well executed, leadership is at work.

An expanded edition of a report originally published in 2012, the Perspective includes an interview with Linda Darling-Hammond, an authority on education policy and teaching, about the connection between strong school leadership and strong teaching.

 Points of Interest

  • A range of leadership patterns exists among principals, assistant principals, and both formal and informal teacher leaders. But principals remain the central source of leadership influence.
    #Teachers, staff and others contribute to effective #school leadership, but #principals are also key. #education
  • Effective principals create an environment that includes basics, such as safety and orderliness, as well as less-tangible qualities: a supportive, responsive attitude toward students and teachers feeling that they are part of a community of professionals focused on good instruction.
    Effective #principals focus on learning, ensuring safety, order & a supportive community-centered #education.
  • High expectations for all, including clear and public standards, is one key to closing the achievement gap between advantaged and less advantaged students and for raising the overall achievement of all students.
    To close #academic achievement gap, #principals must set high standards & rigorous goals for all #students. #education
  • Effective principals endeavor to draw valuable information from statistics and evidence. They ask useful questions, display data in ways that tell compelling stories and use information to promote collaborative inquiry among teachers. They view data as a means not only to pinpoint problems but also to understand their nature and causes.
    Effective #principals use data to pinpoint problems in #education and to understand their nature and causes.