The report is based on a review of existing research and literature. It was launched as part of a study to identify effective pre- and inservice programs and program structures that produce the most highly qualified school leaders.
Principals can play a vital role in raising student achievement. But knowledge on the best ways to develop these leaders is insufficient. In this report, the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute and The Finance Project review research on features of effective leadership preparation and identify gaps. The report has four key findings:
There is general consensus on what good school leadership looks like. Research shows that successful school leaders influence student achievement through two pathways. The first is supporting and developing teachers. The second is organizational processes. Principal preparation and licensing requirements increasingly reflect this understanding. Both commonly set expectations for similar knowledge, skills, and dispositions of school leaders. But more research is needed to determine the importance of school leadership in key areas. These include curriculum, assessment, and addressing local needs.
Research suggests that high-quality principal development has certain features. Effective principal development programs:
Despite consensus in the research, empirical evidence for the impact of these features is minimal.
The diversity of principal development programs makes evaluating their effectiveness challenging. Goals for leadership development often vary for good reason. Research supports the idea that leading different kinds of schools demands different competencies.
Principal development programs are also led by many different entities. These generally fall into four categories:
Inservice programs are more diverse in design and offered by many more entities. This raises serious questions about how to evaluate and compare their effectiveness. The report proposes a partial solution. Researchers can focus more narrowly on specific types of in-service programs such as statewide leadership academies and local professional development academies.
States and districts are increasingly active in designing leadership development programs. But there is little information to guide them on the policy and financing strategies that can best support high-quality programs. Additional research is needed to understand how successful programs and policies are implemented, governed, and financed.
In the wake of liberalized policy developments and certification requirements in some states, the emergence of district owned and operated programs has become an increasingly attractive way of supplying the administrative pipeline with qualified candidates.