Learning from Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning


The recent study of leadership’s impact on student learning released by The Wallace Foundation confirms a strong connection of a school leader’s role to student achievement. 

“In Learning from Leadership — the largest study of school leadership to date — researchers found the strongest evidence yet of principals’ significant effects on student achievement,” said Edward Pauly, director of research and evaluation at The Wallace Foundation. “With current constraints on state and district budgets, this research is all the more timely; the case is stronger than ever for investing in better leadership to improve schools and bring benefits to all students.” 

Learning from Leadership discusses how superintendents and principals can most effectively drive gains in student achievement and how and why their practices result in instructional improvement in some contexts and not others.

Among the report’s key findings:

The principal plays the central role in school leadership, but high-performing schools benefit from the leadership of many others too, with the principal encouraging teachers, parents and others to participate in making decisions.

Principals improve student learning in large part by motivating teachers and encouraging “professional community” – the help and guidance that teachers give one another to improve their teaching.

Leadership challenges include:

Principal turnover that stymies student achievement;

Principals’ positions need to be redesigned so they can focus more on improving instruction, an especially important consideration for secondary schools. This may mean assigning others to non-instructional tasks principals typically do.

The full report is available on The Wallace Foundation website and includes video summaries of the findings.