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The Educational Leadership Imperative of Canada’s Outstanding Principals: Student Achievement

The Educational Leadership Imperative of Canada’s Outstanding Principals: Student Achievement. Scott Lowrey, Ed.D. (OISE/University of Toronto) CCEAM/CASEA 2014. Research questions. How do well-designed leadership development programs influence student achievement?

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The Educational Leadership Imperative of Canada’s Outstanding Principals: Student Achievement

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  1. The Educational Leadership Imperative of Canada’s Outstanding Principals: Student Achievement Scott Lowrey, Ed.D. (OISE/University of Toronto) CCEAM/CASEA 2014

  2. Research questions How do well-designed leadership development programs influence student achievement? How does the Canada’s Outstanding Principals (COP) Program influence student achievement?

  3. Characteristics of Well-Designed Leadership Programs • Purposeful and reciprocal peer networking; • Developmentally appropriate for career stage and trajectory; • Strengthening the iterative nature of practice and theory; • Focused on improving instructional capacity and student achievement; • Balancing job-embeddedness and life-long commitment to continuous professional growth; and • Based on core transformational leadership practices.

  4. COP Selection Criteria • Demonstrates instructional leadership; • Leads others to develop professional learning teams; • Partnering with families and communities; and • Actions ongoing professional and personal growth initiatives.

  5. COP and COPA Program Objectives COP Program objectives Copa program objectives • To engage, and to leverage learning through reflective dialogue, in a forum of collaborative deliberations about issues in education; • To act as mentors to colleagues upon return to their school context; and • To continue engagement in collaborative deliberation through use of facilitated Internet-based collaborative tools. • To enrol new COP recipients into COPA; • To develop the professional learning network as COPA; and • To build upon year over year momentum.

  6. Results: Profile of Interviewees – Cohort Year

  7. Results: Profile of Interviewees – Region

  8. Results: Profile of Interviewees – Pre and Post Leadership Roles

  9. Research Question 1 How do well-designed leadership development programs influence student achievement?

  10. Findings • Principal leadership behaviours, mediated by something, was driven by commitment to improving student achievement; • Trust of a community transcends and precedes principal’s instructional leadership; • Leadership lessons from non-educational contexts are important; • Purposeful integration of theory and practice focused on student achievement; and • Leadership development is grounded in context, but context is a layered concept.

  11. Interviewee Response I would say that there is a strong link when leadership opportunities are geared, in a very purposeful way, to look at student achievement and to look at how students learn. What are the instructional practices? What are those high yield instructional strategies that we are to be using and get a clear understanding of what they look like, how they are used, why we use them, then as that leader you can carry that forward within your own school in your own consultants. Whatever the role is, the greater that capacity to share the mastery of the gains that impact on student achievement.

  12. Interviewee Response I think they enable you to see those connections. To understand that your leadership actions and practices do have an impact on student learning. You need to always be aware of that. It helps you to get a laser like-focus on the learning and yourself become a better instructional leader, instructional coach, and to be able to model best practices for your staff. Within a program like Leadership at Work, you are modeling for your teachers the sharing in best practices and the networking and the collaboration that you know works well in a school to improve student achievement.

  13. Interviewee Response Definitely the principal sets the tone. Definitely the principal sets the overriding expectations that put a focus that all students can achieve. It should be collective among all staff. Collaboratively, how well are the students going to achieve in the school? What can each person contribute to that achievement? Do you have everybody with you all the time on your staff? No. So in terms of measuring that student achievement influence that’s where it gets difficult. If you have that collaborative, collective goal, and trust and attitude towards achievement, then it is going to make a difference because people will want to move along with you.

  14. Interviewee Response There’s such a need for it. Sometime leaders in school systems are leaders who maintain status quo, don’t rock the boat. That’s why they are where they are depending on your school system. I think what COP and good leadership development programs do is help leaders realize that student achievement is the priority not taking care of the system that’s already in existence. They give leaders a better critical thinking approach to understanding student achievement.

  15. Research Question 2 What are your thoughts on how the COP program influences student achievement?

  16. Findings • Majority of interviewees (17/19) state that COP program influences student achievement; • Two interviews questioned the COP program’s influence on student achievement based on measurement challenges or the belief that the program only increases awareness of this influence; • Enhanced understanding of alignment and reciprocity between leadership theory and practice; • Change leadership successes increases principal efficacy; and • National conversations improve leadership inventories regardless of leadership contexts.

  17. Interviewee Response I don’t think you can go through a leadership program as powerful as what we got without having it influence student achievement because it is going to have that domino effect through what we have learned as leaders, passing that leadership on in the schools, and hopefully being more effective and better instructional leaders. It has to have an influence. I don’t know how you measure that. How does COP influence student achievement? It does so indirectly by better equipping principals. However, the people that are in the COP program have already made a significant contribution to student achievement in their schools. Does it help us to achieve that? I would say so in terms of what they learn and the confidence that they get from being a recipient. It’s really the connection to each other. There’s ways to tap into that expertise and groups of people who are experts could be very powerful.

  18. Interviewee Response That is the most important question of this whole interview. All leadership development programs for principals and administration now should talk about the principal as the key to student achievement because we are missing the force of change sometimes. Our role is multi-level in public education. Student achievement is the driving force behind us. Student achievement is the educational leadership of the principal. They have unique skills to make change and be leaders. The most important thing I can do is to take my leadership and my self-efficacy to the school to support teachers so that we can improve student achievement. That means empowering teachers to making the processes in the building better. Empower teachers to say how we take current best practices and incorporate them into our school. Empower teachers to recognize that they are doing well but we’re not experts, but have to learn skills from places that do it better than us. We have to empower teachers and other administrators to be humble enough to say, “I don’t have the answer to this. Can you help me?” And if we take those approaches, we’re going to improve student achievement for all students.

  19. Recommendations: System Leaders • Recognize the complexity of the principal leadership role in order to better respond to the leadership development needs of principals. • Consider succession widely and focus on building leadership capacity across stakeholders. • Structure leadership development approaches to balance individual leadership development needs with organizational imperatives. • Create and maintain cross-sector partnerships where educational leaders are co-learning leadership with non-educational leaders. • Consider the role of recognition in enhancing principal leadership especially for experienced principals.

  20. Recommendations: Program Developers • Well-designed leadership development programs must contain the following six elements: developmentally appropriate for career stage and trajectory; aligning with core transformational practices; strengthening the relationship between theory and practice; balancing job-embeddedness with a lifelong commitment to continuous professional growth; purposeful, reciprocal, and iterative peer networking; and focusing on improving instructional leadership and student achievement. • Job-embeddedness must be balanced with opportunities for collaboration between leadership development program participants. • Leadership development programs require a multi-year commitment where leadership development program lessons can then be applied to a job-embedded home leadership context. • Leadership development programs must integrate theory and practice. • Recognize that core transformational leadership behaviours (i.e., setting directions and developing people) are a mediating variable between principal efficacy and student achievement. • Focus on consolidating principal efficacy early in leadership development programs.

  21. Recommendations: Policy Makers • Recognize that principal efficacy must be established and consolidated during the initial stages of a leadership development program (i.e., principal efficacy precedes transformational leadership). • Recognize that the principal leadership role, especially for those serving as school-based leaders, is more complex than being narrowly focused on instructional leadership. • Over and above an existing skill set, well-designed leadership development programs need to integrate leadership practices from education and non-education sectors. • Principal leadership development programs are enhanced when professional learning networks are expanded beyond specific district school boards to include provincial and national perspectives.

  22. Thank you! slowrey@hwdsb.on.ca

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