The Performance Indicators for Effective Principal Leadership in Improving Student Achievement have been developed by Colleen Seremet, Assistant Superintendent, Dorchester County Public Schools; Bonnie Ward, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Kent County Public Schools; Carol Williamson, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction, Queen Anne’s County Public Schools; and Lani Hall Seikaly,
Project Director for the School Improvement in Maryland Web site. The performance indicators are intended to provide clarity and specificity about the skills, beliefs, and knowledge a principal needs to demonstrate effective leadership in improving student achievement.
We are sharing them in draft form in the hope that you will share your thoughts and ideas about these critical principal performance behaviors. Please email Lani Seikaly, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your input.
Five performance areas have been identified as the critical leadership skills a principal must demonstrate to effectively lead a school in improving student achievement.
Creating a collaborative environment has been described as the “single most important factor”
for successful school improvement initiatives. Virtually all contemporary school reformers call
for increased opportunities for teacher collaboration. Student achievement is likely to be
greatest where teachers and administrators work together, in small groups and school-wide, to
identify sources of student success and then struggle collectively to implement school
improvement. Creating and sustaining change requires creating a critical mass of educators
within the school who are willing and able to function as change agents.
Understanding what your data tells you about where your school is performing relative to school
and district goals is a first step in data analysis. Seeking to understand why your data looks like
it does is the second component. Principals need to model for and train staff to regularly collect,
analyze and use data to inform instruction. Principals need to solicit the input of the major
constituents (teachers, administrators, parents, and students) to ensure that all perceptions
and attitudes are represented in this process.
Stephen R. Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People reminds us, “To begin
with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to
know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps
you take are always in the right direction.” Principals need to lead their school through the
process of identifying school improvement goals and objectives in alignment with school district
and state standards, and of determining the strategies that will promote the attainment of those
goals. Strategies are an enormous investment of resources (both time and money), so schools
need to be rigorous in their evaluation and selection of school improvement strategies to ensure
a wise investment. Principals also need to build the capacity of their staff to implement
strategies by identifying staff needs and providing appropriate staff development opportunities.
Even clearly stated curricular goals will lose their potential to drive the efforts of a school if no
effort is made to collect and analyze accurate information about student achievement that is
reflective of those goals. In most organizations, what gets monitored gets done. Staff learn
what principals value by observing what they pay attention to. Paying attention to the core
values and priority goals of the school is the most important way for leaders to communicate
effectively. When a school devotes considerable time and effort to the continual assessment of a
particular condition or outcome, it notifies all members that the condition or outcome is
considered important. Conversely, inattention to monitoring a particular factor in a school
indicates that it is less than essential, regardless of how often its importance is verbalized.
Schools are notorious for having an expansive list of priorities that change frequently, are
monitored infrequently, and leave the teacher without a clear sense of what is important for
them to emphasize in their classrooms. Effective principals understand the importance of focus
and help ensure that all parts of the school community are aware of and in alignment with the
school’s improvement efforts to improve student learning. They understand that all parts of the
school and school district system are interconnected and that it is critical to align school goals
with district and state standards and goals.
The allocation of time is one of the truest tests of what is really important in any organization. The time
devoted to an issue on both the annual calendar and within the daily schedule of an organization tells
its people what is really valued. All resources need to be managed in alignment with student
achievement goals. Successful principals keep the focus on school improvement efforts and align time,
money, and staff development opportunities with the improvement goals.