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Improving the nation's public schools is one of the highest priorities of federal, state, and local government in America. Recent research has shown that the quality of the principal is, among school-based factors, second only to the quality of the teacher in contributing to what students learn in the classroom. New programs to develop school leaders who can exercise vigilance over instruction and support effective teaching practices are not likely to succeed, however, if they are inconsistent with other state and district policies affecting school leadership. The Wallace Foundation, which focuses its grantmaking in education primarily on school leadership, has posited that well-coordinated policies and initiatives to develop leadership standards, provide high-quality training, and improve the conditions that affect principals' work will increase their ability to improve instruction in their schools. This study documents the actions taken by the Foundation's grantees to create a more cohesive set of policies and initiatives to improve instructional leadership in schools; describes how states and districts have worked together to forge such policies and initiatives around school leadership; and examines the hypothesis that more-cohesive systems do in fact improve school leadership. The study found that it is possible to build more-cohesive leadership systems and that such efforts appear to be a promising approach to developing school leaders engaged in improving instruction. Although the study did not find evidence that the full underlying theory behind this initiative is sound, it did find a correlation between improved conditions for principals and their engagement in instructional practices.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Data Sources and Analytic Approach

  • Chapter Three

    Policies and Initiatives Taken to Improve Leadership

  • Chapter Four

    Variations in State and District Roles in Improving School Leadership

  • Chapter Five

    Building Cohesion Across Policies and Initiatives

  • Chapter Six

    Effective Strategies for System-Building

  • Chapter Seven

    Prospects for Sustainability

  • Chapter Eight

    Support for the CLS Hypothesis

  • Chapter Nine


  • Appendix A

    Background Information on Study States and Districts

  • Appendix B

    Indicators of Leadership Policy Initiatives, Factors of Cohesion, Conditions, and Effective Leadership Practices

  • Appendix C

    Principal Survey Technical Notes

  • Appendix D

    Principal End-of-Day-Log Technical Notes

  • Appendix E

    Index Construction for the Analyses in Chapter Eight

  • Appendix F

    Methodology and Elaborated Results for Analyses in Chapter Eight

The research in this report was produced within RAND Education, a division of the RAND Corporation, and was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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