HARRISBURG – A new study shows Pennsylvania’s ongoing executive development program for school principals is producing significant gains in student achievement, according to Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis.
In 101 school districts where principals completed the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) program from 2006 to 2010, researchers found evidence of achievement at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Researchers from Old Dominion and Johns Hopkins universities examined the participating school districts and found that students in schools led by principals who completed the PIL program had higher PSSA scores in math and reading compared to other schools with similar performance and demographic profiles.
“I’m encouraged by the results,” Tomalis said. “Research shows that the quality of teachers in classrooms has the greatest influence on student achievement. But it is the school leadership that mentors and supports the ongoing development of teachers, and we need to give them the tools to be successful. The PIL program results show we’re clearly on the right track.”
Tomalis said the study confirms that when all factors — including funding — are examined, it’s the quality and structure of a school’s leadership that has the greatest impact on student achievement. He stressed that the desire and willingness of school leaders to empower teachers are important components of a 21st century academic program.
Pennsylvania implemented PIL training in January 2006 in partnership with the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL). To date, more than 2,000 principals, superintendents and assistant superintendents have completed the program.
The study found that:
- Gains in high school math were the most impressive, with the NISL schools outgaining their peers by nearly 10 percentage points.
- At schools led by NISL-trained principals, 1,225 more students achieved reading proficiency, and 1,089 more students achieved math proficiency, than at comparison schools.
- NISL’s program is “highly cost effective,” with current median participant costs per principal of approximately $4,000, and only $117 per additional student achieving proficiency in either reading or math
“The PIL program is a way to ensure that participating school leaders have the knowledge, skills and tools to offer direction to teachers and design an efficient organization, which helps improve student achievement in low-performing schools, or lead good schools to great performance,” Tomalis said.
“We want to do all we can to assist principals and administrators by providing the resources that will improve student academic achievement in Pennsylvania,” he added. “Principals are key players in the success of schools and school districts. Pennsylvania’s PIL program can serve as a model for other states.”