Students Perform Better in Schools with the Highest Levels of Instructional School Leadership and Teacher Leadership
Santa Cruz, Calif. ― Students in schools with the highest levels of instructional leadership (school leaders with an instructional focus) and teacher leadership perform at least 10 percentage points higher in both mathematics and English language arts proficiency on their state assessments, when compared to school with the lowest levels. This is according to a report released today by New Teacher Center (NTC), in partnership with Richard Ingersoll of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
The results, derived from NTC’s Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning (TELL) Survey, identify the specific aspects of a leadership model that are most important when it comes to helping students perform better, including:
- Fostering a shared vision for the school;
- Providing an effective school improvement team; and
- Holding teachers to high instructional standards.
Students were also found to learn more in an environment where teacher leaders are involved in school improvement planning and student conduct policies.
“This report demonstrates that school leadership isn’t just the role of one person in the main office,” says Penn GSE’s Richard Ingersoll. “The data show that schools that incorporate teachers into the leadership process also have better student performance. We hope more superintendents and principals take this into account.”
The report, supported through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, analyzed NTC’s TELL Survey responses from nearly one million teachers and principals in over 25,000 public schools in 16 states from 2011 – 2015. These educators were asked about teaching and learning conditions in their schools and districts and, for the first time, this new report compiled their perceptions of school and teacher leadership opportunities available.
“Our 20 years of working with districts has shown the critical role that school and teacher leaders play in supporting students,” says NTC CEO Ellen Moir. “Through our TELL Survey results, we are now, for the first time, able to truly understand what leadership qualities impact student achievement, and we know that our programs support a strong focus on instruction.”
Many schools and districts, however, are not taking the steps to implement such leadership models for instructional or teacher leaders, and this is particularly apparent in high-poverty schools. In only about 9 percent of high-poverty schools do teachers have a moderate/large role in selecting new teachers; this was true for twice as many faculty members in low-poverty schools.
These new findings confirm the work that NTC has been doing for 20 years. Supporting teachers and school leaders is a clear way to increasing student achievement, and our programs collectively work to achieve these goals.
NTC’s teacher induction, instructional coaching, and early learning programs, for example, all work to build teachers’ instructional practices so they can more effectively reach their students.
NTC’s school leadership program, Achieving Leaders: Effective Schools, supports leaders by developing capacity through high-impact strategies most critical for school transformation, including:
- Leveraging Instructional Leadership Teams to share responsibility and magnify impact;
- Coaching for results through content-based feedback;
- Aligning instruction to frameworks that target the instructional core; and
- Creating and leveraging a peer network so principals can accelerate their learning.
This program also builds these skills into the day-to-day work of leaders through a schoolwide improvement process that empowers a team of teachers and leaders to transform the school.
“School and teacher leaders both play a critical role in helping students succeed,” says NTC Vice President of School Leadership, Colleen Oliver. “Our organization’s focus on school leadership is another layer in our commitment to educational equity for all students by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders.”
In short, the findings suggest that leadership matters, that good school leadership actively involves teachers in decision-making, and that these practices are tied to better student achievement.
We now have the research that proves the impact of teacher and school leaders, and we know how to do it. Distributing leadership and focusing on increasing the overarching effectiveness of schools (i.e., creating positive school cultures and working collectively on continuous improvement), in addition to school leaders who focus on instruction, are key areas for change.
“In this era of limited resources, it is reassuring to know that our administrators can connect individual elements of the school leadership questions and student achievement to help focus on strategies that will raise achievement for all students, by ensuring access and opportunity to engage in high quality, rigorous instruction and activities that will prepare them to succeed in life,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner, Stephen L. Pruitt