Learning from Leadership:Research Findings Karen Seashore Louis Kyla Wahlstrom University of Minnesota AASA Webinar September 28, 2010
Eight Critical Findings • We now have even more compelling empirical evidence that school leadership has significant effects on student learning. • Leadership must focus on the entire school for real change to occur. • Leadership that links principals and teachers creates professional community; teachers who are part of professional communities assume leadership for school improvement.
Eight Critical Findings • Shared leadership increases principal influence over improvement efforts. • Principals’ leadership effects on student learning are greater in elementary schools. • Districts improve student learning by building confidence in their principals.
Eight Critical Findings • Principals’ tenure in schools is typically very brief, with turnover having strongly negative effects on school improvement efforts. • States have a critical leadership role to play, but have limited direct effects at the school level.
1. Leadership Matters • In general, leadership effects on students are indirect, by creating the best possible conditions for teaching and learning. • Leadership matters most when and where it is most needed - and then it has large effects. • Effective leadership combines attention to vision and goals, the capacities of staffs, and attention to the details of good classroom instruction.
2. A Whole-School Focus • Effective leaders… • Involve parents and community, as well as teachers; • Prioritize instructional improvements and achievement goals for all students and all subjects; • Engage all (or most) teachers in conversations and plans for improvement.
3. Principal Leadership for Professional Community • Leadership is most effective when it strengthens “professional community”—which is teachers working together to improve their practice and improve student learning. • Professional community, in turn, is a strong predictor of instructional practices that are associated with improved student achievement. • Professional community also creates a school climate that supports student engagement in and out of classrooms.
4. Leadership Needs to Have an Instructional Focus and Be Shared We found… • Leadership targeted at improving instruction affects working relationships and, indirectly, student achievement. (Instructional Leadership) • When principals and teachers share leadership, teachers’ working relationships are stronger and student achievement is higher. (Shared Leadership)
5. Leadership Effects Vary by Building Level • Principal leadership that “matters” occurs less often in secondary schools, with fewer professional communities among teachers, and less instructional leadership. • Effective secondary school leaders create strong networks of instructional supports, with teacher leaders having real responsibility for improvements.
Instructional Leadership Professional Community Math Achievement Shared Leadership Leadership and Student Achievement in Elementary Schools
6. District Leadership and Principal Efficacy • District leadership focused on building confidence or efficacy of principals to accomplish the districts’ goals have positive effects on school conditions and student learning. • Principals’ confidence grows when they believe they are working collaboratively with district personnel, other principals, and teachers in their schools. • Larger districts generally have less influence on principal efficacy. • Districts have more influence on the confidence of elementary than secondary school principals.
7. Principal TurnoverAffects Student Achievement • The typical school has a new principal every 3.2 years. • Most districts approach the issue of principal quality as a “hiring problem” and only two districts in the study had any planned approach to managing principal turnover. • Principal turnover has significantly negative effects on student achievement. • District leaders are able to blunt the negative effects of rapid principal turnover, but often do not. • Teachers in strong professional communities are better able to withstand the negative effects of rapid principal turnover.
District Professional Development for Leaders is Mostly Insufficient • Few districts have a coherent professional development system for principals. • Over 50% of the principals reported that they met once a month or less frequently with a regular contact in the district office. • Only 52% of principals agree that the district leaders assist them to be better instructional leaders in their schools.
Districts, Leadership PD, and Student Learning • Leaders in higher-performing districts… • Communicated explicit expectations for principal leadership and provided learning experiences in line with these expectations. • Monitored principal follow-through and intervened with further support where needed, having discussions with them about school performance and improvement plans, and through informal advising and coaching interventions. • Modeled effective data use.
Four Key, Mutually Reinforcing Strategies for Districts • Make instructional improvement the #1 priority. • Invest in the knowledge development of instructional leaders and their leadership skills. • Emphasize teamwork and professional community. • Ensure high quality professional development aimed at strengthening capacities to achieve articulated shared purposes. District effects depend on utilizing all four of these strategies; misaligned or scattered improvement strategies may have negative consequences.
8. State Leadership is Important, but Limited in Direct Impact State effects are not uniform across US and are limited by locally weak levers for change. • State leadership (legislation) varies among states and is affected by deep political culture. • District responses are affected by size and state political culture; School responses to states are affected by district responses. • NCLB resulted in small “adjustments,” rather than major changes in state policy.
Project Publications Final Report and Executive Summary are available free of charge at the following web sites: • http://www.cehd.umn.edu/CAREI/ • http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/ • http://www.wallacefoundation.org/Pages/default.aspx