Purposeful Leadership

How effective principals tip good schools to great schools.

By Carol Riley
December 2014, Volume 38, Issue 4

Education research shows that, considered separately, most variables have (at most) small effects on learning. The real payoff comes when individual variables—such as excellent instruction and positive climate—combine to reach critical mass.

Creating the conditions in which these variables can occur is the job of the principal, as explored in the Wallace Foundation’s 2013 report, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning.

For it, the Wallace Foundation examined more than 70 research reports and other publications on school leadership to identify five key practices that must work with collective efficacy through the expertise of the principal. These five practices are:

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students, one based on high standards;
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education in order that safety, a cooperative spirit and other foundations of fruitful interaction prevail;
  • Cultivating leadership in others so that teachers and other adults assume their parts in realizing the school vision;
  • Improving instruction to enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn to their utmost; and
  • Managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement.

The key is having these individual leadership practices work in tandem, informed by each school’s unique and distinct needs.

Establishing working connections between each of these practices draws upon a principal’s skills, talents, and knowledge bases. NAESP is bringing together outstanding school leaders to discuss key actions, as well as how and why those actions lead to successful schools. Principals—including Susan Holiday and Kimberly Washington from Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland and Julie Hasson and Missy Lennard from Hillsborough County Schools in Florida—will present a series of three webinars on these five key practices. Both Prince George’s County and Hillsborough County are districts that are involved in the Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative.

These webinars will be:

  • Wednesday, January 14, 2015
  • Monday, February 2, 2015
  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Find more information and sign up for each webinar here.

These principals have brought together the variables in their schools to create a “critical mass” and foster environments that demonstrate ongoing student achievement growth and better outcomes for the communities they serve. Each principal works in a different demographic population, which has calls for diverse leadership skills.

Use these webinars, and the Wallace Foundation’s other research, to reflect on and broaden your effectiveness.

Copyright © 2014. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy

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