School Leadership and Student Learning
School leaders play a critical and measurable role in shaping school effectiveness (Hallinger & Heck, 1998; Leithwood & Louis, 2004; Leithwood & Riehl, 2003; Mortimore, 1993; Scheurich, 1998; Waters, Marzano & McNulty, 2003). Research suggests that leadership behaviors are second only to teacher effects in their impact on student learning. Although modeling school effects on student learning leaves a significant share of student learning unexplained, about one quarter of the total school effects can be attributed to principal leadership (Hallinger & Heck, 1998; Leithwood & Louis, 2004).
Leadership tasks for student learning.
In a comprehensive review, Murphy, Elliot, Goldring and Porter (2006) describe the several functions of learning-centered leadership including establishing a shared vision for learning that establishes high standards for students (e.g. Dwyer, 1986; Newmann, 1997; Bryk & Schneider, 2002); leading the instructional, curricular and assessment programs (e.g. Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005; Murphy & Hallinger, 1985), developing strong communities of learning (e.g. Berman & McLaughlin, 1978; Little, 1982; Bryk & Schneider, 2002); effectively acquiring and allocating resources (Odden & Archibald, 2001; Beck & Murphy, 1996) maintaining a strong organizational culture focused on learning (e.g. Bossert, Dwyer, Rowan, & Lee, 1982; Louis, Kruse and Bryk 1995; Leithwood, Steinbach & Jantzi, 2002) and engaging in social advocacy (e.g. Fullan, 2003; Goldring & Sullivan, 1996; Moll, 1992). These functions indicate the goals towards which leaders should work to improve student learning and constitute the core of CALLs five domains.
Leadership characteristics for student learning
Researchers have also identified the critical organizational characteristics that leadership functions must establish to improve the conditions for teaching and learning. Leithwood and Louis (2004), for example, suggest that leadership practice for improving learning involves transformational practices such as setting new directions, professional development, and organizational redesign. Others have identified such important organizational characteristics that leaders must facilitate such as establishing relational trust (Bryk & Schneider, 2002); shaping school culture (Deal & Peterson, 2003); providing instructional leadership (Fullan, Hill & Crevola, 2006; Hallinger, 2000); supporting systems of distributed leadership (Spillane, 2006; Gronn, 2002), building inclusive service delivery systems for students who struggle (Capper & Frattura, 2007) and actively engaging the community to help address critical context variables that shape student outcomes (Rothstein, 2004; Warren, 2005).
Because learning is social and based on prior experience (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989), the most effective school leaders support teacher learning by developing communities of practice for teachers to problem-solve, share best practices, and learn as a community (Wenger, 1998, Kelley & Shaw, forthcoming). Effective learning environments are built on communities of practice that are knowledge centered, learner centered, and assessment centered (Bransford, Brown & Cotting, 1999). This research provides a knowledge base that identifies a set of leadership functions and organizational characteristics that contribute to higher levels of student learning. Linking leadership functions with these key organizational outcomes serves as the basis for a rich, research-based map that can guide the practical work of school leaders.
Using iterative design over two years, questions for the CALL survey will be built around two years of research that identified essential leadership tasks. CALL will be designed around a task-based rubric for measuring leadership practice; around six key dimensions of leadership practice as suggested by research on leadership practice. Each dimension will be divided into four to six elements that describe the salient aspects of the leadership practice; and each element will be further subdivided into five to seven leadership tasks that describe the activities that correspond to each element. Tasks as a unit of analysis, versus measured intentions, provide better data at the core of CALL.
Practitioner feedback – from the outset
Expert practitioners will be invited to evaluate the survey from the outset and will be integral to the development of accurate vocabulary, survey items, survey options, and weighing of the tasks that CALL measures. In addition to being rooted in twenty years of leadership research, CALL is tested against actual practice with one year of focus group studies for both high and middle level schools. The Web tool will be connected to a database to record information about how users navigate the system as well as to collect all rating evidence. Data will then be reported to researchers in terms of individual and collective ratings within tasks, within elements, within dimensions and across the evaluation system as a whole to determine aggregate ratings. CALL involves educators when they are needed, at the start of development.
CALL will be run with districts around the country for a full two years prior to release. Not only does this work help work out technical details, but the work serves as research on the feedback system. With over twenty thousand data point available for analysis, CALL feedback uses local data to built customized feedback unique to each school. This research is providing unparalleled data on the link between school leadership tasks and student learning, in addition to serving the pilot schools with data they can use now.