Large national study strongly links educational leadership to student achievement
A new study, the largest of its kind, offers important new evidence affirming the strong connection between what school leaders do and student achievement -- and sheds new light on what effective leadership involves.
The conclusions in the report, Learning from Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning, by researchers Kyla Wahlstrom and Karen Seashore Louis from the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development) and Kenneth Leithwood and Stephen Anderson from the University of Toronto, have broad implications for the understanding of how leadership affects learning across the United States.
"The rubber hits the road in the classroom; that's where the learning happens," said Wahlstrom. "Leadership is important because it sets the conditions and the expectations in the school that there will be excellent instruction and there will be a culture of ongoing learning for the educators and for the students in the school."
The study demonstrates a strong, positive link between educational leaders -- particularly principals -- and student learning outcomes. As the topic of student achievement and test scores dominates policy discussions at the local, state, and national levels, schools and districts face mounting pressure to improve student outcomes. The report provides vital information for policymakers and educational leaders to help students succeed.
Researchers of the $3.5 million study, funded by The Wallace Foundation and conducted over six years, conducted more than 1,000 interviews, surveyed more than 8,000 teachers and administrators, and observed in more than 350 classrooms at all grade levels.
The rich set of findings in Learning from Leadership can help educators, policymakers, and other thought leaders understand how student achievement is linked to leadership at all levels of the education system, from the classroom to the state capital. The report's implications are vast, but one message is clear: "Schools and districts that don't have good leaders will struggle," said Wahlstrom. "So leadership absolutely makes a difference. I can't say that strongly enough: Good leadership is critical to good education."
See the University's news release for more information, including a summary of the report's key findings. The full report is available for free from cehd.umn.edu/carei or wallacefoundation.org, which also includes video commentary by Wahlstrom. See also the University's podcast interview with Wahlstrom below.