The importance of leadership in high-performing schools

The importance of leadership in high-performing schools 3



The importance of leadership in high-performing schools 4

There is a growing body of evidence that school leadership has an impact on student outcomes second only to the influence of teachers in the classroom (Hattie, 2003; Leithwood et al, 2006; Tooley, 2009; Day et al, 2009; New Leaders for New Schools, 2009; Day et al, 2010; Barber et al, 2010).

A recent RAND Corporation report found that nearly 60% of a school’s impact on student achievement is attributable to leadership and teacher effectiveness, with principals accounting for 25% of a school’s total impact on achievement. Furthermore the report found that, while effective teachers have a profound effect on student outcomes, this effect soon fades when the student moves on to another teacher, unless the new teacher is equally effective (New Leaders for New Schools, 2009). In order for students to have high-quality learning every year, whole schools must be high functioning, and this means they must be led by effective principals (ibid).

Other studies support the RAND Corporation findings in relation to the importance of leadership:

  • An analysis of Ofsted inspection results in England showed that for every 100 schools with good leaders, 93 will have good standards of student achievement; and for every 100 schools that do not have effective leadership and management, only one will have good standards of achievement (Barber et al, 2010).
  • James Tooley’s research (Tooley 2004), on low-cost private schools in India, Africa and China, concluded that more than inputs or context, learning depends on ‘a determined and accountable leader’.
  • A major study in the UK on the impact of school leadership on pupil outcomes (Day et al, 2009) found ‘there are statistically significant empirical and qualitatively robust associations between heads’ educational values, qualities and their strategic actions and improvement in school conditions leading to improvements in student outcomes’.
  • A research paper written by Leithwood and colleagues (2006) concludes, ‘as far as we are aware, there is not a single documented case of a school successfully turning around its pupil achievement trajectory in the absence of talented leadership’.

Source details: Curriculum and Leadership Journal 
Volume 10, Issue 16
14 September 2012