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admin 12.02.2015

For years, one of the key debates about principalship has been their role in “instructional leadership”. According to the new study by Jason Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Ben Master, which closely tracked the daily behaviors of 100 Miami-Dade county principals, student learning outcomes do not show a positive correlation to principal walkthroughs. The caveat to this study, which will make it completely meaningless in the eyes of some, is that student outcomes were measured by student test scores.
A terrific new study by Jason Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Ben Master shed light on the role of instructional leadership.
The researchers also had access to administrative data from the district (Miami-Dade County in Florida) about principals, teachers, and students that could be linked to the observational data. The results showed that principals spent, on average, 12.6 percent of their time on activities related to instruction.
Some school characteristics were associated with variations in the amount of time principals devoted to instructional leadership.

As to the primary question of the study, time spent on instructional leadership was NOT associated with student learning outcomes. Time spent coaching teachers–especially in math–was associated with better student outcomes. But informal classroom walkthroughs–the most common activity–were negatively associated with student achievement.
In a follow-up analysis, the researchers evaluated these data in light of what the principals said about how teachers view classroom walkthroughs. Although the researchers suggest that their results should be considered exploratory, they do suggest a general principle of instructional leadership that fits well with one overarching principle of learning: feedback is essential. So, it seems that, in large part, determining the efficacy of principal walkthroughs demands first agreeing both on what exactly the role of the principal should be as well as on what exactly positive student outcomes are.
In other words, how much should principals be doing to directly impact student instruction and what exactly should they be doing if it is so important?

The outcome measure of interest was student learning gains, as measured by standardized tests. More time was spent in schools with lower-achieving students, with students from lower-income homes, and with a higher percentage of students of color. Principal walkthroughs are one of the key methods by which it has been thought that principals can improve instructional leadership.
Instead of simply asking principals “how important is instructional leadership to you?” or having them complete time diaries, researchers actually followed 100 principals  around for a full school day, recording what they did.

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