Do principals have an impact on student achievement? The answer is a resounding yes.
It should come as no surprise that teacher effectiveness matters. Research, time and time again, has shown that teachers are the most important variable in the calculus of student achievement. Nye and colleagues’ (2004) research suggests the difference between a teacher at the 25th percentile and a teacher at the 75th percentile is 14 percentage points in students’ reading performance and 18 percentage points in mathematics.
But what about the role of school leaders? Do principals impact student learning? The answer is a resounding yes.
After teachers, the school leader has the most profound impact on student learning. In a paper published by the Wallace Foundation, How Leadership Influences Learning, authors Kenneth Leithwood, Karen Seashore Louis, Stephen Anderson and Kyla Wahlstrom found that school leaders were responsible for as much as 25 percent of the total school effect on student learning. The authors noted, “Indeed, there are virtually no documented instances of troubled schools being turned around without intervention by a powerful leader. Many other factors may contribute to such turnarounds, but leadership is the catalyst” (p.5).
The Marzano School Leader Evaluation Model is based on three decades of in-depth research and an extensive review of contemporary literature in school administrator leadership. To develop the model, Rober J. Marzano and his associates conducted a survey of the available research on school administrator competence. From this research, specific school leader actions and behaviors were identified that, historically, have had a relationship with student achievement.
In School Leadership That Works, Marzano’s research compared two groups of schools—ineffectively run schools and effectively run schools. The results are striking:
Percentage of Students Expected to Pass or Fail a Test
in Effective Versus Ineffective Schools
Expected Pass Rate Expected Fail Rate Effective School (A) 72% 28% Ineffective School (B) 28% 72%
Effective vs. Ineffective Schools
Source: Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, p.4.
That’s a 44 point difference in student pass rates; the data clearly shows that how a school is run plays a critical role in student achievement. In fact, when comparing highly ineffective schools (bottom 1%) to highly effective schools (top 1%), Marzano found a 70 point difference.
While there is no direct causal relationship to student achievement, the research found that effective school leaders have specific defining characteristics and actions. The Marzano School Leader Evaluation Model focuses on these as measures of school leader effectiveness.
Managing Learning Instead of Buildings
The Marzano School Leader Evaluation Model promotes the management of student learning rather than the management of buildings. Effective school leaders support teachers with meaningful feedback and goals geared toward student achievement. A deep understanding of the Marzano instructional framework is built into the school leader evaluation model. School leaders must lead toward student achievement; that means supporting teachers.
This deep understanding of the instructional framework ensures that school leaders function as instructional leaders, with the knowledge and insights necessary for identifying and developing teacher leaders. Leaders must know how to identify the must-have skills for teachers.
Leaders are responsible for culture (the way we do) and climate (how our actions are perceived). When the goal is to support teachers in support of students, leaders are responsible for providing professional development – not for mere compliance—but for specific purposes to achieve desired student outcomes. Leaders support teachers by aligning resources, curriculum, and professional development to Common Core Standards, state assessments, and other high-stakes assessments required by the district and/or state.
Principals and School Leaders – don’t miss our second annual Marzano Conference, Building Expertise 2013, this summer in Orlando, Florida. We’ll have lots of school leader resources to share. Register now with a group to receive a discount.