Effects of the Executive Development Program and Aligned Coaching for School Principals in Three U.S. States

Investing in Innovation Study Final Report

by Benjamin K. Master, Heather L. Schwartz, Fatih Unlu, Jonathan Schweig, Louis T. Mariano, Elaine Lin Wang


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Research Questions

  1. What proportion of principals who were offered the EDP and coaching participated?
  2. Among those who participated, what were their perceptions of the EDP and of coaching?
  3. What form did coaching take, and what were the main topics of coaching?
  4. What was the effect of offering the EDP and coaching on student achievement, attendance, and grade promotion rates after three years?
  5. What was the effect of actually participating in the EDP and coaching on student achievement, attendance, and grade promotion rates after three years?
  6. What was the effect of offering and of participation in the EDP and coaching on principals' leadership practices and on school policy, culture, and practices?

In this report, part of a series on professional development for school principals, the authors analyze the effects of a large-scale implementation of the National Institute for School Leadership's (NISL's) Executive Development Program (EDP) and paired coaching for middle school principals in three states. The EDP is a widely used principal professional development program that previously has been shown to have a positive influence on student achievement outcomes. For this study, NISL-certified coaches offered at least 60 hours of one-on-one coaching to principals.

The implementation of the EDP and coaching spanned three states, 332 schools, and 118 school districts. The study examined the implementation of the EDP and coaching, the perceptions of participants, and the impacts of the professional development. The authors considered both the impacts of the offer of and the full participation in the EDP and coaching on student academic outcomes and on school practices, as measured by principal and teacher surveys.

Key Findings

  • Three school years after the start of the intervention, the authors did not detect statistically significant effects on student academic achievement, attendance, or on-time grade progression of offering or of fully participating in the EDP and paired coaching of novice middle school principals.
  • The authors did, however, find effects on two school practices that the EDP teaches principals to do. The first is the school having a strategic plan, and the second is the personalization of student instruction. For both, the authors found large positive effects in which fully participating principals in the EDP and coaching reported agreement that was substantially higher than principals from the control group.
  • A low proportion (35 percent) of the principals who were offered the EDP and coaching fully participated in both.
  • Despite the low participation rates, those who did participate reported highly positive views of both the EDP and coaching. About seven in ten principals agreed "to a great extent" that the EDP helped them lead their school better, and more than eight in ten principals reported that they would recommend the EDP to another principal friend. Similarly, eight in ten principals agreed to a great extent that "my coach has helped me to improve my school."

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Description of the Principal Professional Learning and Prior Research About Its Effectiveness

  • Chapter Three

    Data, Methods, and Analytic Samples

  • Chapter Four


  • Chapter Five

    Discussion and Conclusion

  • Appendix A

    Technical Appendix

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the by Criterion Education, with funding from NISL through the i3 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The research was conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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