A school and its staff can thrive under a great principal--here are seven hallmarks of strong school leadership.

What makes a great principal?

A school and its staff can thrive under a great principal--here are seven hallmarks of strong school leadership

Great principals lead effective schools. Under the leadership of a great principal, teachers thrive, students engage with core content and school administrative functions run smoothly.

Conventional wisdom recognizes the value of school principals, and research backs it up. A report by the National Association of Elementary School Principals found that, of the most important factors affecting students’ academic achievement, leadership comes second only to instruction.

This finding makes sense as principals serve as the head of their schools, and their decisions affect school culture, parent involvement and overall community satisfaction. The level of influence a principal possesses, along with the benefits that can accompany the position, make it a post that many motivated educators aspire to hold.

Not everyone has what it takes to execute the job effectively, however. Serving as a principal requires specific skills and characteristics that positively affect the school as a whole.

The importance of a school principal

Before considering the qualities of a great principal, it’s important to realize just how vital a principal’s role really is. Research published in the Hechinger Report showed that school principals account for 25 percent of students’ academic gains, and only teacher effectiveness had a greater impact. Researchers now believe that what makes a great principal also makes a great school. Setting clear direction, mentorship and investment in professional development – these things matter in the classroom, at the school level and at the district level.

An article written by The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement stated that leadership’s effects show the greatest impact in the areas where they are most needed. A troubled school, for example, is unlikely to turn around without an effective leader’s guidance. Increasing awareness of a school principal’s influence on student and teacher performance is reshaping how educational leaders and thinkers view school reform.

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