New Report Shows Crucial Impact of Principals on Student Achievement

Oct 15, 2009, 16:17 ET from New Leaders for New Schools


WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report released today by New Leaders for New Schools calls for the entire education field - the federal government, states, local school systems, and philanthropic funders in particular - to fundamentally re-define effective school leadership and to align their policies to this new definition, especially to drive strategies for effective teaching and to support effective turnarounds of low-performing schools. The report sets forth an evidence-based vision for principal effectiveness rooted in deep accountability for making student achievement gains and in developing quality teachers to meet that goal.

The new report, entitled Principal Effectiveness: A New Principalship to Drive Student Achievement, Teacher Effectiveness, and School Turnarounds, highlights a new analysis of student data in New Leaders-led schools by the RAND Corporation, which finds that among the lowest performing schools in a large urban system, there is a gap in average student performance of 15 percentile points between the highest and lowest gaining schools. This percentile variance is comparable to the achievement differences between effective and ineffective teachers and is 2.5 times the impact of small class sizes. The finding also supports New Leaders for New Schools' belief in the vital importance of turning around historically low performing schools through whole-school change, led by a well-trained principal with a supportive local policy context.

"With research indicating that nearly 60% of student achievement can be attributed to principal and teacher quality, our schools not only need principal training and hiring to be highly selective, but also need school systems, states, and the federal government to redefine the principalship to focus on teachers and students," said Ben Fenton Co-Founder and Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer at New Leaders for New Schools.

By training and supporting principals in those focus areas, New Leaders for New Schools' graduates have demonstrated positive results: K-8 schools led by a New Leaders principal for two or more years are nearly twice as likely as others in their district to make breakthrough achievement gains. Still, achievement results for New Leader-led high schools do not yet outpace the results from other high schools in their district.

"Positive outcomes from New Leaders and other highly effective principal recruitment and training programs will be indispensable but not sufficient to drive breakthrough achievement gains at scale," explains Fenton. "Principal training programs need to learn about what is working and use that information to improve their programs."

To that end, the New Leaders for New Schools' report builds on the organization's own research and recommends that the federal government, states, school systems, and philanthropic funders adopt a definition of principal effectiveness that includes gains in student achievement, increased teacher effectiveness, and implementation of the specific principal actions proven to improve whole schools. Increasing teacher effectiveness, the report explains, requires that principals be able to frequently evaluate teacher growth, support staff in their professional development, build strong leadership teams, dismiss teachers who are consistently low-performing, and create a pipeline of quality talent.


New Leaders for New Schools mission ensures high academic achievement for every student by attracting and preparing outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead, at scale. It has partnerships in Baltimore, the Bay Area of California, Charlotte, Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee, Greater New Orleans, New York City, Prince George's County (MD), and Washington, D.C. Since 2000, New Leaders has selected and trained over 640 outstanding leaders from over 10,000 applicants. New Leaders for New Schools has been recognized for the last 5 years as the highest rated social enterprise and nonprofit in the nation by Fast Company magazine, and was the only nonprofit partnership chosen as Harvard University's 2009 Innovations in American Government Award winner.

SOURCE New Leaders for New Schools