The report notes that support from district and state officials is essential if school-level leadership is to be successful.

Strong leadership is essential to a positive school culture and student success, and effective principals use five key practices to ensure that their schools are successful, according to a new report from the nonprofit Wallace Foundation.

The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning,” a Wallace Foundation Perspective, distills lessons from school leadership projects and major research studies supported by the foundation since 2000.

“After more than a decade of investment in school leadership, we can confirm the empirical link between school leadership and improved student achievement,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “No longer seen as glorified managers of buildings and bus schedules, today’s principals must be their schools’ chief improvement officers, strengthening instruction, building a culture of high achievement, and marshaling the skills of other educators to boost student performance.”

The report gleans lessons from Wallace-supported scholarship by leading researchers at institutions including the RAND Corporation, Stanford, Vanderbilt, the University of Washington, and the Universities of Minnesota and Toronto, as well as Wallace-funded projects in 24 states and numerous districts. It concludes that five practices are central to effective principal leadership:

1. Shaping a vision of academic success for all students.

The literature evinces a broad consensus that setting clear, rigorous learning expectations for all students is crucial to closing the achievement gap between advantaged and less-advantaged students, and for raising achievement overall.

An effective principal makes sure that the notion of academic success for all gets picked up by the faculty and underpins what researchers at the University of Washington describe as a school-wide learning improvement agenda that focuses on goals for student progress.