New book focuses on principal development and support

April 20, 2021

Learning environments require many components to be successful. Michigan State University’s Madeline Mavrogordato wants to make sure one vital component is not overlooked: the quality of principal leadership.  

Her new book “Exploring Principal Development and Teacher Outcomes: How Principals Can Strengthen Instruction, Teacher Retention, and Student Achievement” examines how supporting school principals promotes effective leadership practices and, thus, an increased likelihood of teacher and, ultimately, student success.

Madeline Mavrogordato
Madeline Mavrogordato. Photo courtesy of Teach for America.

This text was co-edited by Mavrogordato, associate professor of K-12 educational administration and policy, alongside colleagues Peter Youngs of University of Virginia, and Jihyun Kim of Lehigh University. The editors invited scholars to submit their work, which was then carefully reviewed and revised to create a comprehensive collection of research highlighting the importance of supporting and evaluating school administrators.    

Currently, abundant research exists around how teachers shape student outcomes. However, research focusing on how principals develop, support teachers and shape student outcomes is not as common, Mavrogordato explains.  

“This book is getting at the nitty-gritty pieces of the work principals do and how this work connects to important educational outcomes,” she says. “For so long, the focus has been on the teacher, but when you have an effective leader, you’re layering excellence across a whole organization.”

Principals carry the responsibility of their schools’ success and make decisions ranging from an individual student level to an organizational level. The strength and quality of their leadership can make a meaningful difference in the lives of teachers and students.

“Exploring Principal Development and Teacher Outcomes” argues that “principal preparation and development programs, and district principal supervision and evaluation practices can all foster strong leadership practices but only if these approaches are carefully designed and implemented and the data that they generate are interpreted and used appropriately.”

Mavrogordato, whose research investigates development and support of effective school leaders who are prepared to serve the new demographics of American public schools, hopes this collection of work helps to “nudge the leadership field forward.”

“There is increasing attention to the fact that school leaders shape teacher and student outcomes,” she says. “When you have a leader who is well prepared and supported, you’re going to have a stronger organization.”

The work represented in the book, she says, does a thorough job of connecting principals’ leadership practices and how they affect teachers’ instruction, satisfaction, commitment, retention and effectiveness within schools.

Learning for better leadership

The research is geared to a variety of audiences, specifically those interested in the cutting edge of leadership practice and those who study educational leadership. However, Mavrogordato points out a third audience she believes can greatly benefit: those in central office positions, specifically at the district level.

“They have the ability to shape the work school leaders do,” she says. “If we want to support principals and encourage leadership improvement, it’s going to start with the central office.”

“Exploring Principal Development and Teacher Outcomes” suggests professional development, supervision and evaluation of principals can promote effective leadership, leading to greater levels of instructional quality, teacher retention and student achievement. This, however, requires a focused and unified effort.

“It isn’t about doing one formal evaluation a year,” says Mavrogordato. “It’s truly about organizational improvement. It’s about creating a strong learning climate and culture.”

The volume is organized into four sections:

  • Examining innovative practices in principal preparation, professional development, supervision and evaluation
  • Describing principals’ time use and efforts to reduce implicit bias, and ways to support them through research-practice partnerships.
  • Considering how principals’ leadership practices are associated with outcomes including student achievement and teachers’ workplace attitudes, instruction and retention.
  • Exploring how the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is likely to affect principal development and leadership practices and synthesizes lessons learned as well as guidelines for policy and practice.

“Exploring Principal Development and Teacher Outcomes” can be purchased from the Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group website.

Youngs is a former faculty member in the MSU College of Education and Kim is graduate of the MSU Ph.D. program in Educational Policy.

Written by Ilene Davis