A number of factors contribute to student success, and it is the role of the principal to create the conditions under which individual variables combine to support and improve student achievement. Leadership is only second to classroom instruction among in-school factors impacting student learning. School leadership can improve school outcomes through support and motivation of teachers and by shaping the environment and climate of the school. Leadership is particularly important, and necessary, in turning around troubled schools.
Principals are no longer building managers as they were traditionally; they have become leaders of learning who are responsible for creating and implementing a vision of success and a climate that is hospitable to learning. Principals can and should cultivate leadership in teachers and work with them to improve instruction through high expectations and ongoing professional learning. Research shows strong links between principal leadership and student achievement. The principal should be aware of what is happening in the school to address current and potential problems.
School leadership is not limited to principals. The OECD defines leadership broadly and suggests that distributed leadership is necessary for school success. Leadership in teams rather than by an individual can contribute to increased effectiveness of the school and students. Even in schools with distributed leadership approaches, the principal still typically carries the bulk of school-level leadership responsibilities. This means districts need to support and retrain current principals to better understand their role in the changing educational environment we have today. Districts also need to prepare and train the next generation of principals through recruitment, training, mentoring, and quality working conditions.
Wallace Foundation. (2013). The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning. http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Pages/overview-the-school-principal-as-leader.aspx
National Association of Secondary School Principals & National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2013). Leadership Matters: What the Research Says about the Importance of Principal Leadership. http://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/LeadershipMatters.pdf
Pont, B., Nusche, D., and Moorman, H. (2008). Improving School Leadership Volume 1: Policy and Practice. OECD. https://www.oecd.org/edu/school/44374889.pdf