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IES Grant

Title: Assessing the Impact of Principals' Professional Development: An Evaluation of the National Institute for School Leadership
Center: NCER Year: 2004
Principal Investigator: Supovitz, Jonathan Awardee: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Education Leadership      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $3,080,214
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305E040085

Principals can make important contributions to the quality of the opportunities to learn provided by schools. But while many programs offer training opportunities to strengthen the capacities of principals and other school leaders, strong empirical evidence about whether and how these programs contribute to improved school leadership practice is lacking. The purpose of this project is to evaluate impact of the National Institute for School Leadership on the knowledge and practice of principals, instructional practice in their schools, and student achievement.

The current study is designed to address these gaps in the empirical literature by evaluating the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) a district-level strategy for improving student achievement by developing principals' knowledge and skills. NISL is designed to develop principals' capacity to lead intensive instructional improvement efforts in their schools. The study will address the following research questions. First, how does participation in the NISL leadership development program influence the knowledge and practice of school principals who participate in the program? Second, how do the beliefs, practices, and opportunities for instructional improvement of teachers in schools led by NISL participants differ from those of teachers in schools not led by NISL participants, and how do these continue to develop over time? Third, in what ways does student achievement change in schools led by NISL participants?

Participants in this study are drawn from a large urban school district serving substantial numbers of students from low income families and diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds. A delayed-treatment experimental design is being used in which 30 primary school principals will be randomly assigned to begin participating in the NISL program while 30 others will be assigned to delay participation for a year. Principals will be followed for three years. The study will also include surveys and qualitative data collection that are intended to complement the randomized trial by supporting the identification of factors that may be associated with the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of NISL. Observations, logs, interviews, and surveys will be used to examine how participation in the NISL program affects the knowledge and practice of participating school principals. Teacher surveys will be used to examine how teachers' beliefs, practices, and opportunities for instructional improvement in schools with NISL participants differ from those of other teachers, using teacher surveys. Finally, effects of principals' participation in NISL on changes in student achievement will be examined using third and fourth grade students' performance on reading and mathematics. The results of the evaluation will provide information on the direct impact of the NISL program on school principals, and how that impact in turn leads to changes in teacher practices and student learning.

The overall goal of this study is to increase understanding of how, and under what conditions, principal leadership development programs can work to create organizational conditions that ultimately support improvements in student achievement.

Publications from this project:

Barnes, C.A., Camburn, E., Sanders, B.R., and Sebastian, J. (2010). Developing Instructional Leaders: Using Mixed Methods to Explore the Black Box of Planned Change in Principals' Professional Practice. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46 (2): 241–279.

Camburn, E.M., Goldring, E., Sebastian, J., May, H. and Huff, J. (2015). An examination of the benefits, limitations, and challenges of conducting randomized experiments with principals. Educational Administration Quarterly. DOI: 10.1177/0013161X15617808

Camburn, E.M., Huff, J., Goldring, E., and May, H. (2010). Assessing the Validity of Annual Surveys for Measuring Principal Leadership Practice. Elementary School Journal, 111 (2): 314–335.

Goldring, E., Huff, J., May, H., and Camburn, E. (2008). School Context and Individual Characteristics: What Influences Principal Practice? Journal of Educational Administration, 46 (3): 332–352.

Goldring, E., Huff, J., Spillane, J.P., and Barnes, C.A. (2009). Measuring the Learning-centered Leadership Expertise of School Principals. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 8 (2): 197–228.

Camburn, E.M., Spillane, J., and Sebastian, J. (2010). Assessing the Utility of a Daily Log for Measuring Principal Leadership Practice. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46 (5): 707–737.

May, H. and Supovitz, J.A. (2011). The Scope of Principal Efforts to Improve Instruction. Educational Administration Quarterly, 47 (2): 332–352.

May, H., Huff, J., and Goldring, E. (2012). A Longitudinal Study Of Principals' Activities and Student Performance. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 23 (4): 417–439.

Spillane, J.P., Camburn, E.M., and Pareja, A.S. (2007). Taking a Distributed Perspective to the School Principal's Workday. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 6 (1): 103–125.

Spillane, J.P., Kim, C., and Frank, K.A. (2012). Instructional Advice and Information Providing and Receiving Behavior In Elementary Schools: Exploring Tie Formation As A Building Block In Social Capital Development. American Educational Research Journal, 49 (6): 1112–1145.

Spillane, J.P., Pareja, A.S., Dorner, L., Barnes, C., May, H., Huff, J., and Camburn, E.M. (2010). Mixing Methods in Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs): Validation, Contextualization, Triangulation, and Control. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 22 (1): 5–28.

Supovitz, J., Sirinides, P., and May, H. (2010). How Principals and Peers Influence Teaching and Learning. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46 (1): 31–56.