Cohesive Leadership System Study

LPC Faculty: Jennifer Russell, Principal Investigator of the subcontract
Associated Organization: RAND
Funding Agency: Wallace Foundation

This project was established to test the validity of Wallace’s cohesive school leadership system hypothesis. The hypothesis posits that when states and school districts collaborate in establishing standards, training, and conditions for school leadership, more effective school leadership practices will result. These practices, in turn, are expected to positively impact classroom instruction and student achievement. Wallace has funded two dozen states, and several districts within those states, to develop cohesive leadership systems. These systems typically consist of performance standards for school leaders, professional development and training opportunities, and other conditions or incentives designed to encourage and enable more effective school leadership.

This study is documenting the development and implementation of cohesive leadership systems in 10 states and 15 districts within those states. The study addresses the following research questions:

  • What has been the role of states in improving school leadership in Wallace-funded sites?
  • To what extent are districts contributing to the cohesiveness of a school leadership system by setting clear expectations that are aligned with state standards, collaborating with university based principal preparation programs, providing ongoing professional development, providing school leaders with authority and incentives to be instructional leaders, and by taking related actions?
  • To what extent are principals demonstrating effective school leadership characteristics?
  • How have efforts to establish a cohesive school leadership system in specific states reportedly affected school leadership?
  • To what extent is teaching and student achievement improving in districts within states that are making progress in implementing a cohesive school leadership system?

Through its investigation of these questions, the project seeks to provide valuable information to Wallace, state policymakers, training providers, district and school administrators, and others interested in understanding the factors that are (and are not) associated with the development of cohesive school leadership systems.