The importance of leadership

How important is high-quality school leadership to achieving improvements in student performance? A little? Very?

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Will Miller, president of the Wallace Foundation, argues that it’s critical. In support of the position, Miller pointed to a study on school leadership commissioned by the Wallace Foundation that found not a single case of a school improving its students’ performance in the absence of a high-quality principal.

Yet despite the important role great principals play in improving a school’s performance, Miller points to a serious lack of attention and investment in creating those principals. For example, only 200 out of the 500 university preparation programs for principals are effective, according to one estimate, and much of the focus of those programs is on general management and administrative requirements as opposed to instructional leadership. The average per-school tenure for principals is only three to four years. And only 4 percent of the federal funding directed toward improving educator performance is spent on principals.

You can’t improve a school with a great principal alone; great teachers are critically important as well. But Miller argues that part of what teachers need to be great is to be “led and developed” by great principals. It’s hard to argue with that.

How do you think we can improve this country’s pipeline of great principal candidates?