What Effective Principals Do

Do principals really have an impact on student achievement? Of course they do! Research including my own indicates clearly that principals affect student outcomes. Browse my publications link to find more detailed discussions, but here is a quick summary of key behaviors that effective principals exhibit. Effective principals:

Ensure the school is operating smoothly on a day-to-day basis.

  • “Run a tight ship” by organizing tasks and personnel efficiently.
  • Make sure students and staff are in a safe, secure, and well-maintained environment.
  • Develop appropriate rules and procedures and provide information to staff and students.
  • Evaluate employees in a fair and consistent manner.

Are competent in instructional and curriculum matters.

  • Have a working knowledge of best instructional practices and commit to those practices in the school.
  • Work with teachers to support implementation of those best practices in the school.
  • Work collaboratively with teachers to examine and analyze classroom engagement and learning and develop strategies for instruction.
  • Coordinate the curriculum and monitor student progress both within individual classrooms and across grades.
  • Work with teachers to develop effective formative and summative assessments.
  • Work with teachers to read and interpret data, as well as develop intervention procedures.

Lead the school in a collaborative and transformational manner.

Did you notice how many effective instructional and curricular practices use the words “work with teachers?” Research is clear that transformational leadership practices have the greatest impact on student achievement. Behaviors of this type highlight and depend on social interactions and relationships to motivate all stakeholders to work toward a common higher goal. Principals really don’t influence student achievement directly like a teacher does in a classroom, but the activities of the principal have a trickle-down effect on teachers and students.  Effective transformational principals:

  • Emphasize a collaborative approach to decision-making and governance processes.
  • Establish appropriate meaningful relationships with staff members that support and empower individuals with a sense of self-worth and value.
  • Set an example for staff members to follow consistent with the values the principal espouses, inspiring others with his or her vision of the future.
  • Foster a group set of goals that transcend personal ambitions.
  • Use the expertise and leadership of teachers and give them the sense that they are an integral part of the success of the school.
  • Spend a significant proportion of their time working collaboratively with staff to solve the key issues of school improvement.
  • Invest in the development of individuals, particularly teacher leaders.
  • Inspire through their personal efforts and their support and encouragement of others.
  • Build leadership capacity throughout the school and develop a culture of collaborative problem solving.

About mprater

I'm a recently retired school teacher/administrator continuing to help people grow through personal learning. When not blogging, I do consulting work for schools and organizations, make presentations at conferences, and research for publication. At the same time, I have to set aside enough time to enjoy the "good life" of retirement!
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4 Responses to What Effective Principals Do

  1. Constance Dixon says:

    I am currently attending the University of South Alabama and am taking EDM310. I was very impressed with your blog. I have encountered some very good principals that strive to know us as students. I have also had some very invisible principals. Ones that were hardly ever seen outside of the office and never dealt with any discipline problems. Principals are such an important part of our school system. For me being a future educator I know that I want a principal that has good leadership as well is there for their teachers and students. I have never fully taken the time to think about what all a principal should be taking the time to do. Reading your blog has opened my eyes to what their full job in tales as well as what I should be doing as a teacher to assist them.

    • mprater says:

      Thanks for your comments, Constance. As you can probably tell, I have a passion for good principal leadership. Teachers facilitate learning every day in their classrooms, but principals impact the learning culture in their entire buildings. My best wishes for you in your teaching career. And you never know, you might find yourself sitting behind the principal’s desk sometime! Good principals are good teachers first.

  2. My name is Allison Cullars and I am in Edm 310 at the University of South Alabama. I enjoyed reading your post. It helped me realize just how important principals are and their roles in the school systems. This helped me see my role in how I should assist the principal. I have experienced principals that are nice people, but they were to nice to disicipline and often let people get away with things they shouldn’t have. When I become a teacher, I hope to work with a principal that exhibits all of these standards.

    • mprater says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, Allison. I appreciate your reflection and comments. Many times I write from the perspective of the principal and fail to see how my posts might help teachers become more effective in partnering with their principals. Thanks for your insight.

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