Principals ‘directly impact student test scores’ – study

A new report on the effectiveness of principals has revealed how school leaders are having a direct impact on the learning outcomes of students.

The research – by the University of Melbourne – is the first of its kind in Australia and was based on Education Department data including literacy and numeracy results and detailed parent and staff surveys.

It detailed how principals who set clear strategic objectives, encourage professional interaction among staff and promote professional development for teachers significantly raise student achievement levels.

Using unique public school data from the Victorian Department of Education and Training, the report – led by Dr Mick Coelli from the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne – analysed the role of principals in determining student achievement as measured by standardised test scores.

The research found that principals who involved staff in delivering clear objectives and provided growth opportunities saw a rise in test scores and overall performance.

“We see principals in schools for more years than other related studies so can get closer to estimating their ‘full’ effect on student achievement,” Coelli said in a statement today.

“More effective principals can raise student performance by as much as 0.22 of a year of learning.”

Having a principal that staff members can communicate with and understand their concerns has no direct relation to raising student test scores, the report found.

“School morale improved in schools with highly effective principals, but this is possibly a result of improved student achievement rather than the cause,” said Coelli.

“These findings can assist policy-makers in identifying effective principals or those in need of further support, with particular focus on developing capacity in advancing the learning environment.”

Victoria’s Minister for Education, James Merlino, welcomed the research, highlighting the value of research partnerships towards delivering better school outcomes.

“The Victorian Government is empowering principals as part of its ambitious Education State agenda, including investing in leadership development and coaching programs and more locally based support, and this research shows why we must continue to do this,” Merlino said.

“Supporting principals, particularly new and aspiring principals, with professional and leadership development and better support will help ensure our kids can get the best possible education, and the best shot in life.”