LeadersSet expectations that lead to high performance and results.
School leadership has an enormous impact on the quality of our schools–second only to classroom instruction. While there are many sources of leadership in schools, principal leadership remains at the core. Effective principal leadership is essential for cultivating high-performing schools, attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, and building community support. Distributed leadership can also have a positive impact on the quality of our schools when teachers, school staff, and district office staff work together to help students learn and thrive.
These tools are provided as a resource to support implementation of the QSF. Their use is not intended as a requirement for schools and districts.
- Classroom Observation Protocol
Subject-specific classroom observation protocols to assess the quality of instruction within and across classrooms, and whether students are learning. These protocols focus on everything students are doing and learning from classroom culture to content to instructional delivery. The protocols also help observers prioritize their feedback and coaching support for teachers.
- Executive Summary: ELA/ELD Framework
The executive summary provides a glimpse into the ELA/ELD Framework and the guidance it provides for educators, including descriptive snapshots and vignettes of grade-level instruction to support education in English language arts and in literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. It is a starting point for professional learning, a concise but still deep overview of student learning and expectations under the California State Standards and a resource for understanding the instructional shifts in English language arts/English language development learning.
- Leading by Convening: A Blueprint for Authentic Engagement
This manual provides a guiding framework and useful tools for creating partnerships across a variety of stakeholders to ensure meaningful changes. It includes step-by-step development and learning activities for building partnership for change. Educational leaders may use this resource for their professional learning community to plan and implement organizational changes.
- Evidence Based Practices
The Every Student Succeeds Act requires schools and districts to use evidence-based practices (EBP) and programs to improve students’ learning and achievement. This module is a suite of three professional development videos with discussion questions, guidelines, and resources. This training is designed for busy educators to answer questions, such as how to identify, select and implement an EBP.
- The College Readiness Indicator Systems (CRIS) Initiative
The CRIS Initiative measures distinct dimensions of college readiness: academic preparation, college knowledge, and academic tenacity. The CRIS Initiative allows for early intervention and points to action at three levels: student (individual), school (setting), and district (system). The four main components are dimensions of college readiness, a tri-level system of indicators, a menu of indicators, and a cycle of inquiry tool that links indicators with supports and actions.
- District Readiness to Support School Turnaround
This guide provides information on how to assess a district’s readiness to support school turnaround initiatives. Often, school turnaround efforts focus only on the school’s structure and leadership. Rarely do policymakers or practitioners think about school turnaround as a system-level issue requiring fundamental changes in district-level practice to establish the conditions for school turnaround to succeed. This guide will also provide an introduction to turnaround readiness conditions that will help districts to best position resources to enable schools to succeed.
- Effective Meeting Facilitation: the Sine Qua Non of Planning
This article from the National Endowment for the Arts provides step-by-step guidance for facilitators of meetings focused on the planning process. The guidance includes preparation for a meeting, preparing an agenda, planning specific activities to support the planning process, orchestrating the meeting, facilitation techniques and handling conflict. Additional resources are included.
- Leadership Planning Guide
This guide describes ten key components to implementing the common core state standards in a school district, and offers essential considerations and recommended first steps for each of the key components. This document also provides guidance for districts in each phase of the transition to new standards: awareness, transition, implementation and continuous improvement. Additional resources are cited throughout.
- Principal Support Framework Action Area Resources and Tools
This collection of conceptual and practical resources and tools is intended to help districts and charter management organizations as they use the Principal Support Framework (PSF) and the PSF District Self-Assessment and Planning Template . Implement new systems and practices that support principals as instructional leaders. Contributed by the Partnership Sites to Empower Effective Teaching and supplemented with tools from the Center for Educational Leadership and Break the Curve Consulting, these materials represent the current state of practice and were selected for their value in helping sites conceptualize, design, problem solve, and/or align the work of selecting and supporting principals as instructional leaders.
- Explaining Common Core to Californians: A Communications Toolkit
This toolkit provides research, recommendations, and sample communications California Educators can use to increase public understanding of the shifts and supports needed to implement Common Core State Standard—in accessible, positively-framed language.
- Designing, Leading and Managing the Transition to the Common Core: A Strategy Guidebook for Leaders
This publication describes an evidenced-based structured process to implement common core state standards as a whole-system reform that changes not only curriculum, instruction and assessments, but also professional development, technology systems, teacher evaluations, roles and culture. This guide includes a mental model of a leadership cycle for leading the change and a design cycle to plan the reform process. Additional resources are cited throughout.
- Leadership Development Module: Using Data Effectively
Organized as a module that includes videos, handouts, and a facilitator guide, this no-cost resource is designed to guide leadership teams to develop an understanding of how to use multiple data sources, analyze data to trace the causes of low achievement and find solutions, and articulate how to support teachers’ use of data to improve instruction.
- The Support Personnel Accountability Report Card
The Support Personnel Accountability Report Card (SPARC) offers a voluntary, continuous improvement process that provides school site Student Support Teams with an opportunity to publish a document that identifies key student outcomes and to publicize their plans for continued success. For additional career development information and resources, visit the California Career Resource Network (CalCRN).
- 2020 Vision: Rethinking Budget Priorities Under the LCFF
This research article identifies four critical areas to use LCFF funds which will offer the promise of long-term institutional change. Local educators will make a difference if they learn how to be systematic in their efforts to collect data, evaluate programs and track results. Principals and teachers that are given the authority to innovate, experiment and learn from one another will learn what practices and policies work best for their schools and students.
- Supporting Continuous Improvement in California’s Education System
This report discusses how “California’s new accountability system is different from the previous system: it is grounded in the concept of reciprocal accountability in which every actor in the system—from the Capitol to the classroom—must be responsible for the aspects of educational quality and performance that it controls.” The report describes three fundamental commitments in California’s new accountability system, as well as three complementary mechanisms to hold schools and districts accountable.
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“To date we have not found a single case of a school improving its student achievement record in the absence of talented leadership.” (1)
School leaders have an enormous impact on the quality of our schools. While there are many sources of leadership within a school, principal leadership remains at the core. Effective principals prioritize teacher performance and student growth as they coordinate numerous schooling activities. They cultivate high-performing schools, attract and retain high-quality teachers, foster positive school culture, and build community support. (2)
Teachers, school staff, and district office staff can also all play important roles in the effective leadership of a school site. (3) In fact, research shows that distributed leadership can also have a positive impact on the quality of our schools. (4) Distributed leadership is the ongoing collaborative work that takes place between leaders and across leadership teams. (5) To scale up school improvements, districts and schools need to build overall capacity and specialized skills. This expanded capacity is not possible if control is limited to a few individuals—it requires a broader distribution of leadership. (6)
Research reveals that the effect of leadership on student learning is second only to classroom instruction. (1) Strong leadership is crucial to turning around low-performing schools and closing the achievement gap. (2) In a California middle school study, researchers concluded that effective school leaders have the largest impact on schools with the greatest need. (3) According to Linda Darling-Hammond (4), “the number one reason for teachers’ decisions about whether to stay in a school is the quality of administrative support—and it is the leader who must develop this.”
Leadership, defined more broadly, can also generate creative solutions and support system-wide implementation of those solutions. Studies of distributed leadership indicate that many different leaders play a role in supporting student success. A study of multiple urban elementary schools demonstrated how leadership teams—rather than individual leaders—worked successfully to interpret student learning outcomes and, based on their findings, implement positive changes in instruction across a large district. (5)
Higher achieving schools often incorporate more stakeholders into decision-making. Effective school and district leaders are more influential when they engage other stakeholders—parents, teachers, principals, staff, and others—in leadership activities. (6) These leaders build strong relationships with the families and communities they serve, establishing partnerships in various communities, creating multiple avenues for two-way communication, and engaging in specific outreach to parents of underserved and under-represented students. (7)
In California, policy and practice standards (i.e., The California Professional Standards of Education Leaders—CPSEL) provide a frame for preparing successful teacher leaders to become effective school leaders. These standards can be used to guide coaching and supervision, and also reflect a strong commitment to fostering equity among diverse learners and using technology as a powerful learning tool. (1) According to the CPSEL, an effective school administrator:
- Facilitates the development, communication, implementation, and stewardship of a school community’s vision of learning.
- Advocates, nurtures, and sustains a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.
- Ensures management of the organization, operations, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.
- Collaborates with families and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, as well as mobilizing community resources.
- Models a personal code of ethics and professional leadership growth.
- Understands, responds to, and influences the larger political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context.
While these leadership standards provide a comprehensive guide for preparing and supporting effective leaders, a leader’s impact on school improvement and student achievement is also shaped by site-specific experiences and resources. Effective leadership depends on the leader’s ability to adapt to new circumstances by assessing the underlying causes of new challenges and anticipating or responding with appropriate strategies. Effective leadership practices typically include strengthening district and school cultures, modifying organizational structures, and building collaborative processes. Research indicates that school leaders can have especially strong impact in the following areas:
- Setting Direction
In setting the direction, school leaders can ensure that a key objective for the school community is to establish—and act on—high expectations for all students and staff. A recent study found that schools with principals demonstrating a strong vision were more likely to successfully enact reform efforts and achieve higher performance scores. (2) Effective leaders help their organizational stakeholders set specific performance goals and assess progress and outcomes on a regular basis. Distributed leadership and collaboration help students learn and thrive, but only when based on shared values and focused on shared tasks. (3)
- Developing People
School leaders play a crucial role in building teacher capacity and increasing teacher effectiveness. Leaders help build teacher capacity by providing specific opportunities and supports for teachers to extend their knowledge and skills to address the needs of all students. These may include professional learning, benchmark examples or models, individual support, direct feedback, and an expectation that staff will persist in working toward common goals on behalf of every student. Effective principals deliberately plan and implement progressive leadership opportunities for teacher development. (4) They also connect professional learning to fair and rigorous evaluation systems by using evaluation data to target professional learning through professional growth plans for every teacher. (5)
- Managing the Instructional Program
Managing the teaching and learning program is a core competency of an effective principal. Leaders provide resources, guidance, and oversight to continuously improve teacher and student results. Principals focus on staffing, monitoring student progress and teachers’ work, buffering staff from distractions from their core purposes, and providing and aligning resources. (6) Effective leaders work to align curriculum, instructional practices, assessments, professional learning and support, program and personnel evaluation, and necessary resources into a coherent, well-functioning system. The principal ensures that the instructional system meets the needs of the school community as well as state and federal requirements.
- Fostering Collaboration
Principals ensure that teachers do not work in isolation from one another, but, instead, work collaboratively, giving each other help and guidance to improve instructional practices. (7) This may require restructuring the school schedule to provide staff with dedicated time to work collaboratively to solve learning challenges their students face.
- Shaping Organizational Structure and Culture
A principal’s actions establish workplace conditions that allow staff to fully apply their knowledge and skills. School leaders work with others to diagnose the school’s capacity and environment, develop and implement action plans, and manage time and resources in support of school goals. Because the school’s culture and climate can shape what teachers and students can and cannot do, effective principals handle planning and operations efficiently while also building a culture of school-wide collaboration, equity, and shared accountability. (8)
Standards and Frameworks