WHAT IS A HIGHLY-EFFECTIVE PRINCIPAL?
For many years now, researchers and school improvement advocates have largely focused on improving the quality of teachers as the main lever for increasing the quality of schools. Since students spend the most time with their teachers, these efforts made sense. However, recent research from the Wallace Foundation has found that the impact of principals on improving schools has been understated. Since principals are responsible for recruiting, developing, and supporting all of the teachers in a school building as well as other important tasks like building a supportive school climate, there is a strong case for increasing the effectiveness of our principals in order to improve the quality of our schools.
Researchers found that changing a principal’s expertise from being ineffective (25th percentile of effectiveness) to being highly effective (75th percentile of effectiveness) increased learning in reading and math by about 3 months for all students in a school. Principals impact all the students in a school, whereas a teacher is limited to a much smaller number of students they can work with. This makes principal development a great investment because policymakers can pour resources into a smaller number of educators while affecting a larger number of students.
The Wallace Foundation researchers were able to identify four key principal actions, as well as three foundational skills, that were linked to effective outcomes for students:
– Engaging in instructionally-focused interactions with teachers,
– Building a productive climate,
– Facilitating collaboration and professional learning communities, and
– Managing personnel and resources strategically.
Principals are responsible for a wide range of factors that influence student achievement. It’s time to ensure we are recruiting, developing, and retaining our high-impact principals in order to create great schools for all kids.