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The Wallace Foundation Commissions Reports to Synthesize State of Knowledge on Key Aspects of School Leadership

July 17, 2019



Jessica Schwartz

Ann Bradley

The Wallace Foundation Commissions Reports to Synthesize
 State of Knowledge on Key Aspects of School Leadership

Researchers to collaborate to update two volumes, probe role of assistant principal

New York City (July 17, 2019) – The Wallace Foundation today announced that it has commissioned reports from prominent researchers who will provide the field with up-to-date information about the state of knowledge in three critical areas of education leadership.

Two of the research syntheses will provide a fresh analysis of topics explored in previous reports, which are among the foundation’s most significant and popular publications. One report will focus on the influence of leadership on student learning, providing an update to the landmark How Leadership Influences Student Learning, published in 2004.

Another will look at the characteristics and outcomes of effective principal preparation programs, building on what was learned since Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World: Lessons from Exemplary Leadership Development Programs was published in 2007.

The third report will examine the role of the assistant principal, both as a final career position and as preparation for the principalship, a new area of inquiry that has emerged from the foundation’s work over the past 15 years.

While each of the project teams for the reports will work independently, the researchers also will collaborate across teams and use a broader set of methodologies than are typically used for literature reviews.

We believe that by summarizing and reviewing the research base on school leadership these reports will be useful to the field, enabling practitioners and policymakers to make informed decisions,” said Elizabeth Ty Wilde, a senior research officer at The Wallace Foundation. “At Wallace, we’re also committed to using the reports to support and inform our own work.”

The forthcoming publications and their teams are:

  • The Relationship Between School Leadership and Student Achievement in the United States, by Jason Grissom of Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development, Constance Lindsay of the University of North Carolina and the Urban Institute, and Anna Egalite of North Carolina State University. This analysis will update the 2004 report by Kenneth Leithwood, Karen Seashore Louis and other researchers from the University of Minnesota and University of Toronto, which found that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among the school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school.

“The research base in this area has grown significantly since the early 2000s. The availability of data from systems that track students, teachers and leaders longitudinally permits us to use a much higher degree of rigor in our analysis than was possible earlier,” said Grissom, an associate professor at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, who will serve as the principal investigator of the project. “There has also been a drastic change in the policy context of school leadership, with a shift to specific instructional leadership related to observing teacher practice, providing feedback, and planning for professional learning.”

  • Knowledge Synthesis in Education Leadership: Principal Preparation, by Linda Darling-Hammond, Marjorie Wechsler and Stephanie Levin of the Learning Policy Institute and Tina Trujillo of the University of California, Berkeley. This volume will update a 2007 report by a team led by Linda Darling-Hammond, who is now the president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute. The report informed the design of the foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative, which is supporting universities and school districts to redesign the way principals are prepared and supporting states to consider policies to support the new approaches.

“Since the earlier report was written, the field has changed and more research about the development of effective leaders has been conducted,” said Darling-Hammond, who is serving as principal investigator. “Advancements in the sciences of learning and development have begun to influence how we think about the tasks of school leaders and hence the kind of preparation they need. It is important to understand how leadership pre-service and in-service programs are effectively preparing their graduates to shape policies, practices, and resource priorities that meet all students’ needs.”

  • A Research Synthesis of the Role of Assistant Principals and Pathways to the Principalship, by Ellen Goldring and Mollie Rubin from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development and Mariesa Herrmann of Mathematica Policy Research. Efforts by school districts to take a strategic approach to developing school leaders have made clear that spending time as an assistant principal is a common pathway to the principalship in urban districts. This report will describe and analyze the research on assistant principals, identify gaps in the evidence, and discuss implications for improvement efforts.

“This review will address two core questions: How can the role of the assistant principal best prepare those who want to be principals to be effective? And, how can the role of the assistant principal as a final career position be differentiated from the role as preparation for the principalship?” explained Ellen Goldring, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College who will serve as co-principal investigator and co-project director. “Further, in this synthesis we will also specifically address the issue of equity in terms of how issues of equity are related to assistant principals’ opportunities to transition to the principalship and how  assistant principals influence equity for teachers and students, both of which are underdeveloped in the literature.”

The three knowledge syntheses are expected to be released in June 2020.

The Wallace Foundation is a national philanthropy that seeks to improve learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and foster the vitality of the arts for everyone.
Wallace has six major initiatives under way:

  • School leadership. Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
  • Building audiences for the arts. Making the arts a part of many more people’s lives by working with arts organizations to broaden, deepen and diversify audiences.
  • Social and emotional learning. Exploring whether and how children benefit if schools and afterschool programs work together to align and improve experiences and climate to build social and emotional skills.
  • Arts education. Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
  • Summer learning. Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children.
  • Afterschool. Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.

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