The Influence of Principal Leadership on Classroom Instruction and Student Learning: A Study of Mediated Pathways to Learning

February, 2012
James Sebastian and Elaine Allensworth

Purpose: This study examines the influence of principal leadership in high schools on classroom instruction and student achievement through key organizational factors, including professional capacity, parent–community ties, and the school’s learning climate. It identifies paths through which leadership explains differences in achievement and instruction between schools and differences in instruction among teachers within the same school. Research Design: Multilevel structural equation modeling was used to examine the relationships among principal leadership, school organizational structures, classroom instruction, and student grades and test gains on ACT’s Education Planning and Assessment System. Measures of principal leadership and school organizational structures were collected from teacher surveys administered to all high school teachers in Chicago Public Schools in the 2006–2007 school years. Findings: Within schools, variation in classroom instruction is associated with principal leadership through multiple pathways, the strongest of which is the quality of professional development and coherence of programs.  Between schools, differences in instruction and student achievement are associated with principal leadership only via the learning climate. This suggests that in high schools, establishing a safe, college-focused climate may be the most important leadership function for promoting achievement schoolwide.

The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Educational Administration Quarterly, 48(4), February 2012 by SAGE Publications Ltd./SAGE Publications, Inc., All rights reserved. © 2012

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