Education leaders, such as school principals, have been the focus of education research for decades. While research suggests that there are substantial (albeit mostly indirect) relationships between school leadership and student achievement, there is still much to learn. More information is needed about how the knowledge, skills, abilities, and actions of school leaders are impacting student outcomes and the best ways to prepare and support school leaders.
Since 2004, the National Center for Education Research (NCER) within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has only funded 15 research studies on education leadership through several education research grant programs. A technical working group met last year and recommended that NCER strengthen its portfolio of research on this important topic.
In response, IES is revamping its Education Leadership topic as a separate part of its Education Research grants program. By doing so, we hope to provide a greater focus on education leadership research and increase understanding of how school leadership can improve achievement and opportunities for students.
Through the leadership topic, IES is offering research opportunities on programs, policies, and practices that support leaders in K-12 education systems at the school, district, or state level and ultimately lead to improved student outcomes. While IES invites all applications that meet the topic requirements, we are especially interested in
- exploratory research on the specific competencies and behaviors needed by leaders to support at-risk or high-risk students and improve student outcomes in challenging educational settings, such as persistently low-performing schools and high-poverty schools and districts;
- exploratory research on the relationship between student education outcomes and district policies regarding the identification and selection of education leaders, assignment of leaders to specific schools, leadership turnover, and the distribution of leadership roles and responsibilities among multiple individuals within a school;
- evaluations of leadership interventions that have the potential to improve student outcomes; and
- the validation of existing leadership measures and the development and validation of new leadership measures for the purpose of research, formative assessment, and accountability.
Education leadership researchers who have strong partnerships with school districts and/or state education agencies should also consider applying to the Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research topic within the Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy grants program. This topic allows researchers to carry out initial research that is of importance to district and/or state partners and then develop a plan for future research.
For more information on funding opportunities for research on education leadership contact Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov) or Corinne Alfeld (Corinne.Alfeld@ed.gov) or visit the IES website. If you missed the deadline to submit an optional Letter of Intent for the Education Leadership topic, please email it to Katina or Corinne directly.
A One-Stop Shop for Leadership Research
We have consolidated all education research grants related to education leaders under our Education Leadership research portfolio. The focus of these studies varies and includes the development and validation of leadership measures (such as the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education (VAL-ED) and the exploration of potential relationship(s) between malleable factors (such as principals’ skills and behaviors) and student outcomes. In addition to these studies, NCER has funded research on education leadership through its R&D centers on school choice, scaling up effective schools, and analyzing longitudinal education data.
Written by Katina Stapleton, Education Research Analyst, NCER
PHOTO: Principals meet with the U.S. Department of Education leadership in 2015 (courtesy of U.S. Department of Education)