Principal Development: Resources Through University Partnerships


Katherine Curry

Research suggests that principal leadership is key to school success (Leithwood, Seashore Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstron, 2004) and that principal leadership is second only to the quality of classroom instruction in determining educational outcomes. For example, in a study done by Branch, Hanushek, and Rivkin (2012), they found that a principal scoring one standard deviation above the mean for principal effectiveness could enhance student achievement from the 50th to the 58th percentile.  This understanding is especially important given the level of influence that a principal has across classrooms in a building. Principals also strongly influence teacher outcomes as high-quality principals experience lower teacher turnover (Boyd, et al., 2011; Branch, Hanushek, and Rivkin, 2014), and they tend to recruit and retain higher quality teachers (Loeb, Kalogrides, & Beteille, 2012). With those important understandings in mind, we suggest that continued, professional learning is essential for sustained principal effectiveness.

Federal legislation reflects this important understanding. The reauthorization of the U.S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act, referred to as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), places a renewed focus on school leadership and on leadership’s facilitation of effective instruction (Herman, et al., 2018). It also provides an impetus for development of new and innovative approaches to understand and evaluate principal leadership by allowing districts to devise evidenced based measures that document leadership effectiveness.  We believe that this approach makes sense because we believe that investments in education must produce intended results (Herman, et al., 2018).

However, the fact that ESSA allows considerable flexibility for states to interpret and apply evidence requirements has caused concern across educational leaders and scholars (Herman, et al., 2018). A recent study by the RAND Corporation emphasizes the need to identify actions/activities that fit the context of individual educational environments (Herman, et al., 2018). These researchers also suggest that, even though most districts place a tremendous emphasis on continual growth for teachers, few districts invest significant resources for principal development.  As a result, innovative ways to encourage principal effectiveness may be limited.

In the current context of limited resources, we believe that partnerships between universities and schools can provide the support needed for principal growth and development. Educational opportunities such as the Edupreneur Academy and professional development opportunities provided by university faculty at Oklahoma State University can encourage and support principal growth and leadership. We offer training in edupreneurial leadership, action research leadership, development of relationships with community stakeholders and assessment of school climate/culture. If you or your school is interested in learning more about how you can partner with us to enhance principal development, we will be happy to devise a plan that meets your educational and contextual needs.

Discussion Questions:


  1. What is your understanding of evidence-based measures under ESSA?
  2. How is your school cultivating leaders? What innovative suggestions do you have?
  3. What needs have you identified, and how can university/school partnerships help you meet this need?


  • Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Ing, M., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). The influence of school administrators on teacher retention decisions. American Education Research Journal, 48(2), 303-333.
  • Branch, G. F., Hanushek, E. A., & Rivkin, S. G. (2014). Estimating the effect of leaders on public sector productivity: The case of school principal. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.
  • Herman, R., Gates, S. M., Arifkhanova, A., Barrett, M., Bega, A., Chavez-Herrerias, E. R. C., Han, E., Harris, M., Vigacheva, K., Ross, R., Leschitz, J. T., Wrabel, S. L. (2018). School leadership interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence Review.  Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  • Leithwood, L., Seashore Louis, K., Anderson, S., & Wahlstrom, K. (2004) How leadership influences student learning. New York: The Wallace Foundation.Loeb, S., Dalogrides, D., & Beteille, T. (2012). Effective schools: Teacher hiring, assignment, development, and retention. Education Finance and Policy, 7(3), 269-304.
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