Study Shows Principal Training Boosts Student Learning

Two new scientifically rigorous studies found that school principals who had completed a National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) training program were able to achieve greater gains in their students studying mathematics and reading/English language arts than comparison schools, a press release reveals.

The studies conducted at Old Dominion University and Johns Hopkins University examine the effect of NISL’s Executive Development Program (EDP) on student achievement in 101 Pennsylvania schools and 38 Massachusetts schools, respectively, between 2006 and 2010. In Texas, NISL’s EDP is currently being used in Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Northwest Independent School District.

The National Institute for School Leadership, based in Washington, D.C., provides training programs for educational leaders. NISL’s Executive Development Program and its shorter Leadership Series give principals the critical knowledge and skills they need to be instructional leaders and improve student achievement in their schools.

The researchers’ key findings included:

Massachusetts NISL schools saw significant gains in both math and reading scores for elementary and middle school students when compared to other schools across the state.

Math and reading gains at the school level were “quite large relative to results observed in similar studies of comprehensive school reform effects or Title I program effects,” as well as reduced class size projects.

In Pennsylvania there was evidence of increased achievement at the elementary, middle and high school levels. An additional 1,225 students achieved reading proficiency, and 1,089 more students achieved math proficiency, than at comparison schools.

Gains in high school math were the most impressive, with the NISL schools outgaining their peers by nearly 10 percentage points, which is “particularly noteworthy, as there is little systematic evidence that any of the many high school reforms attempted to date have had a positive effect on student achievement.”

The program is estimated at costing a mere $4,000 per school principal.

“These findings not only reaffirm that highly effective school leadership is critical to raising student achievement. They also demonstrate that professional development can make existing principals more effective, creating student learning gains on par with the far more expensive alternative of recruiting and training new principals,” said Robert C. Hughes, president and CEO of NISL.

To date, more than 4,000 school leaders in 17 states have completed NISL’s Executive Development Program.

The programs are currently going ahead in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Arizona. District-run programs are in progress in Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas, Nevada and Wisconsin.