School Leadership = School Climate + Achievement Gains

A lot has been said about the connection between a strong school climate, school achievement and school leadership.  “School principals influence school achievement primarily through changes in the school climate.” In this article we will take a deeper look at the connection between school leadership, school culture and student learning by summarizing the work of UChicago Consortium on School Research.  According to the Consortium’s research, school leaders improve school climate by fostering strong learning climates and supporting teacher leadership around school wide goals. 

“Strong learning climates are defined as safe, supportive environments with high, consistent and clear expectations for students.”  Other factors that contribute to a strong learning climate are: 

  1. “School staff hold each other accountable for the success of all students in the school, not just in their own classrooms”.  We should all be pulling on the same rope in the same direction. 
  2. “Staff members at multiple levels continually examine student data of various types”.  Data analysis has student success and growth as its focus.  
  3. “Expectations for behavior and academics are high and consistent”.  One behavior framework is used by all so that support is possible.  
  4. “Systems of support are universal”.  All students have access to consistent support as needed across all teachers and disciplines.  

“Principals create a strong learning climate by supporting teacher leadership around school 

wide goals.”

Some of the ways that robust teacher leadership looks like in practice: 

  1. “Teachers work together to find solutions”.  Accountability and collective ownership are key words here, teachers know how their actions lead to school growth due to alignment of systems.  
  2. “Teachers meeting time is used for a planned purpose”.  Meetings are aligned with school wide goals and there is use of agendas, minutes, roles.  
  3. “Principals support teacher teams”.  A collective focus on school wide goals is maintained with timely communication of solutions. 

“Schools with the highest learning gains have principals who support a strong school climate.”  School principals achieve this by: 

  1. “Developing systems to support teachers to support students.”  Making sure that teachers have time to collaborate on school wide goals.  
  2. “Organizing and supporting shared leadership among staff.”  Fostering collective ownership of school vision and goals.  
  3. “Managing shared leadership by guiding, coordinating and monitoring the work of teachers and leaders in the school.”  Keeping the focus on school wide goals while helping determine effectiveness of efforts. 

As we can see from the research, there is a strong connection between school leadership, school climate and school wide gains.  By summarizing the work of the UChicago Consortium hopefully you now have a palatable checklist of ways to improve school climate and achievement as a school leader.  

Work Cited:

Allensworth, E.M., & Hart, H. (2018). How do principals influence student achievement? Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.

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