Evaluation of a Training Program to Promote Effective School Leadership
Co-Principal Investigators: James Sebastian and Wendy M. Reinke
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of Safe and Civil School Leadership (SCSL), a professional development program designed to promote effective school leadership skills. SCSL focuses on equipping principals with the knowledge and skills to foster positive and safe learning climates using practical data-based decision making tools. Although SCSL was developed over a decade ago and has been implemented in dozens of states with thousands of principals, its effects on principal, teacher, and student outcomes have never been independently evaluated in a controlled trial.
Project Activities: This study's core activity is a rigorous randomized control trial to test the efficacy of the SCSL professional program on principal, teacher, and student outcomes. Researchers will first recruit over 100 schools into the study. Principals at half of the schools will be randomly assigned to receive the SCLS training (treatment condition), while principals at the other half will be randomly assigned to receive the standard principal professional development program offered by their school district (control condition). The SCLS professional development program will be implemented in treatment schools for two years, during which researchers will monitor the fidelity of implementation of the intervention. After two years, researchers will conduct analyses to determine whether school participation in the SCSL program leads to greater principal and teacher efficacy in managing/promoting school climate, improved school safety and relatedness, reduced aggressive/ disruptive behaviors, and a greater increase in academic engagement and student performance when compared to standard practice.
Products: Researchers will disseminate the results of this study in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. The research team will also disseminate results to policymakers and practitioners at conferences, through professional networks, and online through websites for Safe & Civil Schools, the Boone County Schools Mental Health Coalition and the Missouri Prevention Center.
Setting: The participating schools are located in eleven public school districts from throughout Missouri, located in rural, suburban, and urban settings.
Sample: One hundred ten school principals from Missouri public schools will participate in the study. The sample will also include the students and teachers at each participating school.
Intervention: Safe and Civil School Leadership (SCSL) is a research-based series of training and coaching materials designed to help school leaders develop effective skills for promoting positive student behavior and school safety. Certified trainers will provide two full days of training and ongoing coaching to school leaders. SCSL is grounded in social learning theory and attempts to foster leadership skills for promoting safe and positive learning climates. The SCSL model targets school leaders' use of effective schoolwide discipline practices by promoting positive relationships with all students, creating behavior leadership teams, and using systematic data collection to guide decision making. In addition to the in-person SCSL training and coaching, participants will have access to online materials designed to supplement and enhance skill development.
Research Design and Methods: Researchers will conduct a group randomized control trial to determine whether schools implementing the SCSL exhibit fewer disruptive behaviors and improved academic engagement and performance than schools in control classrooms. Schools (and their principals) within districts will be randomized by cohort into either the SCSL or control condition. For each cohort, researchers will collect data over a two-year period on principal, teacher, and student ratings of safety/climate, student engagement, and student academic and social behavior.
Control Condition: Principals assigned to the control condition will receive the standard principal professional development program offered by their school districts (business as usual).
Key Measures: Primary outcomes will include academic achievement (Missouri Assessment Program), principal and teacher efficacy, school climate and safety (observations, teacher and student ratings), student engagement and disruptive behaviors (teacher/student ratings), instructional time, and organizational health. Other outcomes will be collected annually from archival records: state test scores, grades, suspensions, and discipline referrals.
Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use a two-level hierarchical linear model representing students nested within schools to assess the treatment effect on academic performance, school safety, and student engagement and behaviors. Multilevel structural equation modeling (SEM) will also be used to test the key components of the hypothesized model. A significant indirect effect will be taken as evidence of mediation. In addition to the SEM analyses, additional sensitivity analyses will be performed to investigate for potential confounding variables. Researchers will also conduct analyses of SCSL startup and maintenance costs.