School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning

Posted by on January 16, 2012

A new report from the Wallace Foundation, based on over 70 research reports and other publications from the foundation regarding school leadership, summarizes what makes for an effective principal and how to tie principal effectiveness to improved student achievement. The authors report that effective principals perform five key functions well: shaping a vision of academic success for all students; creating a climate hospitable to education; cultivating leadership in others; improving instruction; and managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement. Each of these five tasks must interact with the other four for any part to succeed. The foundation’s work over the last decade suggests the creation of a pipeline of leaders who can make a real difference would have four necessary and interlocking parts: defining the job of the principal and assistant principal; providing high-quality training for aspiring school leaders; hiring selectively; and evaluating principals and giving them the on-the-job support they need. “Education research shows that most school variables, considered separately, have at most small effects on learning,” the authors write. “The real payoff comes when individual variables combine to reach critical mass. Creating the conditions under which that can occur is the job of the principal.”

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