Effective Principals Are Crucial to School Excellence, Studies Find

Based on a decade of studies and projects funded by the Wallace Foundation, a new report has identified five practices that are central to effective school leadership.

The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning (20 pages, PDF), the latest installment in the foundation's Perspectives series, distills lessons from school leadership projects and research in twenty-four states and many districts. According to the report, the key practices in effective school leadership are shaping a vision of academic success for all students; creating a climate hospitable to education; cultivating leadership in others; improving instructional practices among the faculty; and managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement.

The report also notes that principals need the support of state and district officials in order to be effective and argues that while school leaders cannot transform failing schools by themselves, there is little chance a school can be transformed at all without effective leadership from the principal.

"After more than a decade of investment in school leadership, we can confirm the empirical link between school leadership and improved student achievement," said Wallace Foundation president Will Miller. "No longer seen as glorified managers of buildings and bus schedules, today's principals must be their schools' chief improvement officers, strengthening instruction, building a culture of high achievement, and marshaling the skills of other educators to boost student performance."

"Decade of Research Points to Five Must-Haves for Effective Principals." Wallace Foundation Press Release 01/05/2012.