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Program Details

Grant Program: Education Leadership
Contact: Dr. Katina Stapleton
(202) 2456181

The Education Leadership (Leadership) topic supports research on programs, policies, and practices to support leaders in K-12 education systems at the school, district, or state level in order to improve leadership in ways that can lead to beneficial student education outcomes. The Leadership topic recognizes the critical role these education leaders play in creating safe and supportive learning environments for students, improving the skills of their staffs, implementing policies and programs, managing systems efficiently, and leading organizational change. Education leaders are also seen as key to the successful implementation of improvements in education systems. The Institute is interested in research to better understand the roles of leaders in managing and improving systems and how their leadership capacity can be improved.


Between 2004–2017, NCER has invested approximately $34.6 million in the Leadership program to support 18 research projects.

5 Exploration Projects
4 Development and Innovation Projects
5 Efficacy and Replication Projects
3 Measurement Projects


NCER began funding research on education leaders in 2004. Since then, Leadership researchers have:

  • developed interventions to improve the skills of principals,
  • explored the relationships between school leaders' knowledge, skills, behaviors and student achievement,
  • developed and validated leadership assessments, and
  • evaluated interventions for school principals.

Why is Leadership Unique?

Unlike education research grant programs that focus on students or teachers as the locus of efforts to improve student outcomes, the Leadership program focuses on whether and how education leaders (broadly defined) can make a difference in student achievement. While most of the funded projects study school principals, this topic is designed to fund research on the full range of education leaders (district superintendents and administrators, school principals, and other personnel in leadership roles such as teacher-leaders, vice- and assistant principals, school boards, turn-around specialists, curriculum supervisors, talent management specialists, assessment directors, and principal supervisors).


The long-term outcome of this research will be an array of leadership practices, programs (e.g., in-service principal training on conducting teacher observations and providing feedback), assessments, and policies (e.g., recruitment, retention, and principal evaluation) that have been demonstrated to be effective for improving and assessing leading and leaders in ways that are linked to improvement in student achievement.