Putting Professional Learning to Work

What Principals Do with Their Executive Development Program Learning

by Elaine Lin Wang, Heather L. Schwartz, Monica Mean, Laura Stelitano, Benjamin K. Master

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Case Study #1

Shaping a Standards-Aligned Instructional System Through Formative Assessment Practices

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Case Study #2

Building a Collaborative, Data-Driven School Culture to Improve Instructional Quality

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Case Study #3

Building a Culture and Capacity for Collaboration to Foster Instructional Improvement

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Case Study #4

Raising School Culture and Student Achievement Through a Focus on Writing

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Case Study #5

Implementing Teacher-Centered Professional Learning to Elevate Student Engagement in a High-Performing High School

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Case Study #6

Developing Teachers' Instructional Leadership Capacity

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Case Study #7

Improving Small-Group Reading Instruction by Building Teacher Capacity for Data Use

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Case Study #8

Fostering a Culture of Effective Data Use to Support Students' Personalized Learning

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Case Study #9

Supporting Students' Mastery of English Language Arts Standards Through Data Use and Curriculum Alignment

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Appendix

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Research Questions

  1. To what extent did principals with EDP experience feel that EDP courses would help them lead their schools better?
  2. To what extent did principals feel that creating and implementing their Action Learning Project improved their school?
  3. What concepts from the EDP did principals value most?
  4. What did principals value about the coaching provided by NISL?
  5. What do the nine case studies of principals using EDP concepts to improve their schools tell us about how principals established and shared a vision for schoolwide improvement, how they took a strategic and intentional approach to school change, how distributed leadership works, and how they integrated concepts about how people learn in their school improvement effort?

Since 2004, the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) has offered the Executive Development Program (EDP), a leadership program for sitting school principals that is typically delivered in two-day workshops once per month over 12 months. From its inception through 2018, 15,000 principals across 23 states have participated in the EDP.

This report presents findings from part of RAND's evaluation of the EDP, focusing on how principals applied their EDP learning and coaching to their work as school leaders. The authors draw on a survey of 172 EDP participants, phone interviews of 74 principals, and nine in-depth case studies to examine what improvement efforts principals with EDP experience attempted in their schools and what strategies they applied to reach their goals.

Key Findings

Takeaways from the survey and interviews

  • Principals felt that the EDP improved their ability to conceptualize and lead school improvement efforts.
  • Principals learned and adopted EDP concepts and processes.
  • Principals would recommend the EDP to fellow principals.
  • Principals highly valued NISL coaching.
  • School improvement takes time: Over several years, principals leveraged EDP learning and NISL coaching to enact strategies reflecting core EDP concepts and processes that supported staff take-up of school improvement efforts and eventual changes in teachers' instructional practices.

Eight strategies for school improvement identified in the case studies

  • Establish a positive school culture as a foundation for school improvement (see cases 2, 4, 5, and 9).
  • Set a clear vision during launch and repeatedly reiterate commitment to the improvement effort (see cases 3, 4, 6, and 8).
  • Identify a willing and enthusiastic leadership team (see cases 1, 2, 3, 4, and 9).
  • Establish structures and processes for teacher collaboration and learning (see cases 1, 2, 5, and 6).
  • Press teachers to adopt targeted instructional practices to support student learning (see cases 1, 7, 8, and 9).
  • Increase transparency around instruction (see cases 2, 3, 7, and 9).
  • Surface inconsistencies in practice or policy and continue to align system components (see cases 1, 4, and 9).
  • Distribute leadership, identifying experts to share and model practices (see cases 4, 5, and 8).

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the by the U.S. Department of Education via its Investing in Innovation and Supporting Effective Educator Development grant programs and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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