Study: Why school leadership matters

In the recent Hechinger Report article, “Why school leadership matters” researchers reflect on how the trickle-down effects of improving superintendents and principals has been proven to come second only to teacher quality in the fight for improved student achievement. In the last few decades, school reform experiments have taken place on a wide range from local to federal, but only until recently have researchers looked to the important role school leadership plays in improving the entire school environment. The report shows leadership starts at the very top with superintendents who are consistent and layout groundwork for principals by:

  • setting a clear direction and tone,
  • investing in professional development,
  • setting up mentors for new principals,
  • giving principals the authority to make key decisions,
  • and elevating the importance of academic achievement.
In a 2009 study by New Leaders for New Schools, researchers found the joint impact of principal and teacher effectiveness impacted student gains by more than 50 percent — principals accounted for 25 percent and teachers 33 percent. However, even though research shows improving leadership will benefit most any failing school, the type of leadership that is right for individual schools varies. According to the author of Leading in a Culture of Change, some schools may need a transformational leader, while others may want to improve from good to great or even choose to distribute leadership roles throughout the school culture.
According to Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues, the most successful programs that train principals, include the following characteristics:
  • A focus on instruction, organizational development and change management.
  • Field-based internships that enable principals-in-training to apply leadership knowledge and skills under the guidance on an expert practitioner.
  • Problem-based learning strategies that support reflection and link theory to practice.
  • A structure that enables collaboration, teamwork, and mutual support among principals-in-training.
At LifeBound, we offer Academic Coaches Training for school leaders, teachers, counselors, administrators, mentors, and more. Coaching sessions are held as a six-day intensive that delves into different levels of coaching skills, including: listening, observing, asking powerful questions, and acknowledging. To learn more about Academic Coaches Training or to find out more about how LifeBound can customize a training program to meet your school’s needs, call us at 1-877-737-8510 or email at


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