A study of 7,000 principals in Texas found that the most-effective principals can raise students’ achievement in one year by as much as two to seven months of learning, while the least-effective principals can lower achievement in similar amounts.
The study also found that principal turnover is higher at disadvantaged schools — a potential setback because it takes time for principals to begin to see changes in student achievement.
School principals do a lot more than strike dread in the hearts of misbehaving kids, even if that’s how many people remember them.
The new study published in the Education Next journal gives statistical proof that effective principals raise academic achievement of students at their schools.
The most effective principals raise achievement of a typical student by two to seven months of learning in a single school year, according to the “School Leaders Matter” study. The least effective principals lower achievement by a similar amount. Seven thousand principals were studied, using data from the Texas Education Agency going back to 1993.
Researchers adjusted for the fact that a principal in a school that serves mostly wealthy families might appear to be doing a great job, when students’ high achievement was really driven by family background factors.
The statistical adjustments also leveled the field for principals working with disadvantaged students whose achievement scores were comparatively low. Such a principal could be producing better student achievement results than other principals did in similar circumstances. A statistical process known as value-added measurement was used to tease out that information.
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