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Learning-Centered Leadership Practices for Effective High Schools Serving At-Risk Students

by Jason Huff, Courtney Preston, Ellen B. Goldring & J. Edward Guthrie - 2018

Background/Context: Modest gains in NAEP scores by American high schools over the past twenty years highlight the need to identify different factors associated with gains in student achievement. Amongst those potential factors is school leadership; limited research on leaders’ work in secondary schools highlights the need to understand how high school leaders structure their schools to promote student learning.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question: We ask the question, What distinguishes leaders’ practices in more effective high schools from those in less effective high schools that serve large proportions of at-risk youth?

Research Design: We first identify more and less effective high schools using value-added scores, and we analyze interview, observational, and survey data collected in these schools to compare and contrast how leaders support key practices and organizational routines by their staff. Our analyses include work by traditional leaders (principals and assistant principals) as well as other leaders’ (e.g. department chairs, teacher leaders) practices within the schools.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We found differences between higher and lower value-added schools in terms of leaders’ conceptions of the intended routines (those ideal policies that faculty are to carry out) and their attention to the implementation of them, through closer examination of faculty members’ actual actions or their directed support for faculty members’ practices. Two primary themes characterize the differences in their practices. First, leaders in higher value-added high schools are more involved in, intentional about, and attentive to how their ideal/intended routines are implemented, thus ensuring that teachers’ actual practices are changed. They focus on how these routines provide ongoing monitoring and feedback for their faculty to build and improve teachers’ quality instruction, alignment of curriculum, and systems of support for students. Second, higher value-added school leaders provided more targeted, systemic efforts to support personalized learning for students.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 9, 2018, p. 1-38
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22343, Date Accessed: 6/19/2021 3:29:18 PM

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About the Author
  • Jason Huff
    Seattle Public Schools
    E-mail Author
    JASON HUFF is Director of Leadership Development, Seattle Public Schools. His research interests focus on leadership preparation and development and school district-university partnerships to provide high-quality training to leaders throughout their careers. He currently administers the LeadUp leadership pipeline program in Seattle, WA.
  • Courtney Preston
    Florida State University
    E-mail Author
    COURTNEY PRESTON is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Dr. Preston studies teacher and school leadership preparation and development as well as new teacher and school leader labor markets. Recently, her research has been published in the Journal of Teacher Education and Teachers College Record.
  • Ellen Goldring
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    ELLEN GOLDRING is Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor and Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. Her research interests focus on the intersection of education policy and school improvement with particular emphases on education leadership. A fellow of the American Educational Research Association and Past Vice-President of AERA’s Division L-Policy and Politics, she is the recipient of the University Council for Educational Administration’s Roald F. Campbell Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • J. Edward Guthrie
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    J. EDWARD GUTHRIE is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. He researches education policy and school improvement with a focus on leadership, turnaround, and teacher effectiveness. His recent work has been published in Leadership and Policy in Schools and the Journal of Educational Administration.
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