Educational leadership linked to student success in a major US study — ScienceDaily

A new study published on July 21, the largest of its kind, offers important new evidence affirming the strong link between what school leaders do and student achievement – ​​and sheds new light on what leadership entails. effective.

The conclusions of the report, Iandlearning from leadership: investigating the links to improved student learningby researchers Kyla Wahlstrom and Karen Seashore Louis of the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development and Kenneth Leithwood and Stephen Anderson of the University of Toronto, have broad implications for understanding how leadership affects learning in the United States.

“The rubber hits the road in the classroom; that’s where the learning happens,” Wahlstrom said. “Leadership is important because it sets the conditions and expectations in the school that there will be excellent teaching and that there will be a culture of continuous learning for educators and for students in the school. .”

The study demonstrates a strong and positive link between education leaders – especially school principals – and student learning outcomes. As the topic of student achievement and test scores dominate policy discussions at the local, state, and national levels, schools and districts face increasing pressure to improve student outcomes. The report provides vital information for policy makers and education officials to help students succeed.

Researchers in the six-year, $3.5 million Wallace Foundation-funded study conducted more than 1,000 interviews, interviewed more than 8,000 teachers and administrators, and observed in more than 350 classrooms. at all levels.

“In Learn from leadership – the largest study of school leadership to date – researchers have found the strongest evidence to date of the significant effects of principals on student achievement,” said Edward Pauly, director of research and of evaluation at the Wallace Foundation.” With the current constraints on state and district budgets, this research is all the more timely; the case is stronger than ever for investing in better leadership to improve schools and benefit all students. »

Learn from leadership is an important contribution to the Wallace Foundation’s 10-year body of research on understanding and improving leadership in educational settings. The authors of the study examined leadership extensively and in its many forms – from the state and district levels to individual principals, school board members, teachers and community members. They found that collaboration between these stakeholders was correlated with improved student learning.

Learn from leadership explains how superintendents and principals can most effectively support student progress and how and why their practices result in improved instruction in some settings and not in others.

“Among many other findings, I anticipate that readers will be particularly interested in our findings on successful leadership practices, the importance of delivering these practices in a coordinated fashion, and the key contribution of leader effectiveness in addressing of the district’s success,” Leithwood said.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • Student achievement is higher in schools where principals share leadership with teachers and the community; directors play a key role in encouraging others to join.
  • Higher performing schools generally require more input and engagement from a wider variety of stakeholders.
  • District support for shared leadership fosters the development of professional communities. When teachers feel attached to a professional community, they are more likely to use instructional practices related to improving student learning.
  • In districts with high levels of student learning, district leaders are more likely to emphasize goals and initiatives that go beyond the state’s minimum expectations for student achievement .

Key challenges for effective school leadership include:

  • The glaring lack of district support for the professional development of principals and the lack of regular contact between most principals and their district office. District leaders also need to increase support for principals to use data-driven decision-making.
  • The direct negative effect of leadership turnover on student achievement due to disruptions in cooperation and shared leadership with teachers
  • A lack of real and sustained leadership aimed at improving teaching in secondary schools
  • The absence of comprehensive approaches to education reform in most states

Full report.

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Materials provided by University of Minnesota. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Janice G. Ball