What Makes a Strong School Leader?
  • By admin
  • August 13, 2019

By Grace Shelton



What makes a strong school leader? A research synthesis from the Gates Foundation details four ways strong school leadership can positively impact students and schools. The article states that strong leadership teams enable teachers to work with their peers and focus on improvement over evaluation, involve teachers in decision making about curriculum, assessment, instruction, and professional learning, engage families and communities, and create safe environments for students. While all of this is certainly true, there are a few key elements the foundation left out that point even further to the impact strong leadership can make in schools.

They Enable Teachers

Firstly, leadership teams can do even more than enable teachers to work with peers. Leadership teams can actually directly model collaboration with peers in a way that improves organizational culture as a whole. Teachers, and in turn students, can benefit from seeing administrative staff working as a team to approach schoolwide decisions. Principals then aren’t viewed as islands making decisions on their own but seeking the advice and opinions of their peers. This modeling will be key in enabling teachers to do the same with one another. Team collaboration, therefore, must start with leadership and be present within school culture before it can be encouraged elsewhere.

They Involve Teachers

Secondly, it’s true that leadership must include teachers in key decisions. Teachers need to be involved in examining data and using it to impact ultimate schoolwide change. However, it must be clear that the data systems and training around how to effectively utilize school-level data must be organized within the district and disseminated throughout schools with rigorous leadership training. This way, principals and administration have the correct knowledge of data systems that work and can pass this on to staff within the schools. If these systems are uniform throughout districts, teachers can be helpful outside their own schools thus increasing teacher autonomy.

They Engage Their Communities

Thirdly, leadership must engage families and communities but they must also prioritize communities and consider engagement a necessary part of school culture. So much so that engagement and parent involvement should be evaluated and prioritized within the school itself. Frequency and quality of family and community interactions can be valued just as much as instructional goals within the classroom. If school leadership makes it clear that this is expected in every classroom from all staff, then community engagement won’t rely on the principal herself, and everyone will have a part in the school’s surrounding environment.

They Create Safe Environments

Lastly, strong leaderships must create safe environments for more than just the students, but staff and families as well. Good principals give everyone the tools they need to succeed, but also provide a safe space where people can seek instructional help. Keeping this open-door policy can foster growth among staff and create a culture that continually strives to do better than before.


Contact Resonant Education to learn more about the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education (VAL-Ed)


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