The Ripple Effect: A Synthesis of Research on Principal Influence to Inform Performance Evaluation Design
This brief draws upon research literature on principal effectiveness and policy documents created by scholars and national organizations concerned with principal professional practice and its effects. It finds that principal evaluation systems should not be based solely on student achievement gains, but rather on the quality of a principal’s school-level leadership and performance.
Research on principal effectiveness was located through a keyword search of electronic catalogs, including ERIC and EBSCO. In addition, the researchers asked nationally recognized leadership scholars to recommend research studies for inclusion in the review. The researchers specifically sought meta-analyses of research studies that identified principal knowledge or behaviors influencing student learning and teacher instructional decisions. Articles were screened for their relevance, quality, and scholarly rigor as determined by the transparency of methods and peer review process. Articles advocating a position were excluded from the search. The literature was reviewed and findings categorized according to strength of evidence and direct/indirect relation to principals’ work. As a result of the review, a framework for understanding principal influence emerged.
The researchers also reviewed and analyzed policy documents, produced by national policy entities, which define principal effectiveness and principal professional standards. Effectiveness definitions and standards were reviewed, and a typology emerged.
While the researchers have attempted to be thorough, they also recognize that the search may not have been exhaustive and that new research continues to emerge. The review is limited, in part, because a large number of databases were not referenced and multiple, independent reviewers were not employed to screen and analyze the literature.