It is easy to point to the teachers as the main force behind student test scores and achievement. But what effect does the principal play on student achievement within his or her school?  There have been many articles and studies done over the past twenty years that have investigated the relationship between good leadership and student performance.  It is my intention to highlight a few of the findings.

When I was in the classroom, I felt as if my students’ scores were solely my responsibility. I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare my students. Now, as an administrator, I feel the same pressure for my students to do well on the upcoming state assessments.  In both cases, I was correct. Teachers and school administrators play significant roles in student performance. Walter, Marzano, and McNulty found that principal impact accounts for 25 percent of the student learning.

As school leaders, we must do all that we can to grow professionally so that we take full advantage of the 25 percent impact that we have.

In a recent publication, the CALDER Urban Institute published a study on principal effectiveness.  They condensed their findings into five key points.  I would strongly recommend reading the entire article (it can be found here).

Because I’m passionate about working is high need schools with a high population of at-risk students, I found point five extremely compelling.  It stated that the variation in principal effectiveness is roughly twice as large in high-poverty and low-achieving schools.  This means that my role as a school leader is much more needed and influential at a low performing school.

The Wallace Foundation released a study in January that outlines the role of school principal as leader (it can be found here).  The authors listed the five functions that a good school leader does successfully.

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students.
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education.
  • Cultivating leadership in others.
  • Improving instruction.
  • Managing people, data and processes to foster school improvement.

They found that the real payoff comes when individual variables combine the above functions harmoniously throughout the school.  When all these factors combine, the school and students will be successful.