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NASBE Analysis Outlines Seven Questions States Should Ask about Effective School Leadership

For Immediate Release: August 21, 2017

Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

NASBE Analysis Outlines Seven Questions States Should Ask about Effective School Leadership

Alexandria, Va. — More than a decade of research and practice demonstrates the significant impact that school leaders have on student learning, teaching, and school quality. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes the importance of school leadership by setting aside funds under Title I and Title II, Part A for states to make broad, sustained investments in cultivating high-quality school leaders. In a new “Power of the Question” analysis, NASBE Director of Teaching, Leading, and Learning Don Long lays out seven questions state boards of education and other policymakers should ask when considering school leadership policies.

  1. How do standards drive your state’s system to recruit, develop, support, and evaluate school leaders? Standards that define expectations, knowledge, skills, and norms across a career continuum are central to effective school leadership systems. States can evaluate current policies to ensure they align with standards such as the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.
  2. Are your school leaders ready to lead instruction and manage talent? State boards can assess school leadership capacity across their states by homing in on policies and practices that foster these core competencies and on principal preparation programs. States such as Oregon and Louisiana plan to leverage Title II funds to support principal professional learning that values instructional leadership and talent management.
  3. Are you making the most of your board’s authority over licensure and preparation programs? State boards can improve school leader preparation by adopting robust, research-based program approval criteria. All 17 ESSA state plans submitted this spring feature school leadership strategies that cover preparation, induction, mentoring, and professional learning; 13 are developing or expanding principal preparation programs, many with a focus on equity.
  4. How do you ensure all students get effective school leaders? States must ensure a supply of effective, diverse leaders that reflects the diversity of their students. ESSA nudges states to identify and address principal shortages and disparities by allowing states to use a portion of Title II, Part A dollars on leadership preparation programs targeted to high-need schools.
  5. Are your school leaders ready to create a culture of professional learning? State boards are uniquely situated to promote a shared vision of continuous, collective, and individual improvement by ensuring their state’s professional learning for school leaders is sustained, intensive, job-embedded, collaborative, classroom-focused, and data-driven.
  6. How do states help make existing school leaders better? On average, principals have their greatest impact after being at a school for five to seven years. Yet many do not stay that long. State boards can consider policies and practices to support principals’ careers and improve retention.
  7. Will your state leverage Title I to support interventions for improving schools? ESSA gives school districts greater flexibility over school improvement. Many states are using this new flexibility to foster collaboration between teachers and leadership and to ensure districts have the necessary resources, data, and talent to assume the lead role in school improvement.

“With the [Trump] administration’s proposed federal budget for fiscal 2018, states are facing new funding uncertainty and a lack of regulatory clarity over some ESSA provisions aimed at strengthening school leadership,” writes Long. “While these developments have complicated the picture for creating more holistic leadership systems, it may also signal that states have even greater responsibility and a more compelling call to ‘lead for equity.’ State boards can exercise their full powers of policy, questioning, and convening to amplify the importance of school leaders.”

Read and share the NASBE Power of the Question analysis “Seven Questions Boards Should Ask about School Leadership.”

NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at


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