Called School Leadership and Student Outcomes: What Works and Why, the latest in the Best Evidence Synthesis series is running out the door like hot cakes. Almost 8,000 of the 10,000 printed copies went within 10 days of its launch in November—a copy was sent to each school, and requests have sucked up the rest.

“The Leadership BES demonstrates and celebrates the extraordinary accomplishment of effective leadership (including professional and teacher leadership) in schooling,” says Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, the Ministry of Education’s Chief Advisor on the BES programme. NZEI members and staff worked extensively on the project, with the ministry, along with other educational groups.

The BES sets out and explains the actions of school leaders that make a bigger difference for student learning and achievement. It includes examples of outstanding practice by New Zealand principals and other school leaders in English and Ma – ori medium settings.

A key finding is that of all school leadership activities, those that involve leaders promoting and participating with teachers in effective professional learning have twice the impact on student outcomes of any other leadership focus. Leaders’ abilities to build reciprocal trust relationships with staff and quickly resolve difficulties are found to be strongly related to improved student outcomes.

“Teachers are working so hard but they often feel alienated from their own professional leadership,” says Dr Alton-Lee, “but this BES shows a way forward.”

She says the research “kills the idea of the heroic principal”, and connects back to the idea of Tomorrow’s Schools where schools could manage their own workload and stress.

Top three things to lift student achievement

Using the report, Dr Alton- Lee has put together a table of interventions that produce the biggest gains in student achievement. It rates programmes according to an ‘effect’ size, where 0.35 is the mean for one year’s achievement gain.

• Ripene Awhina kit e Panui Pukapuka, with an effect size of 0.52-2.75. Audio tapes with elders reading in te reo Ma – ori used at home and school. Effects shown over one term, when tapes used two to three times a week.

• Reading Together, with effect size of 0.43- 2.22. Four workshop interventions with parents and wha-nau using librarians as community partners. See www. readingtogether.net.nz.

• School maths games. Shows the highest achievement gains in maths in overseas research. Schools develop workshops and mathematical games to lend to parents.

Get your copy

The Leadership BES is aimed at principals, lead teachers, syndicate leaders and other school leaders, as well as teachers who aspire to leadership roles. Find the copy that was sent to your school, or download the book online at www.educationcounts. govt.nz/themes/BES . Extra copies may be available at orders@ thechair.minedu.govt.nz.

A lesson from the private sector?

A key finding of the BES is that New Zealand principals spend less time on those leadership activities that make the most difference to student outcomes because they spend far more hours than most principals in OECD countries on administrative matters, such as the management of property. One idea that is currently being floated is for schools to look more closely at the example of private schools, and a few public schools, where there is often a role such as bursar to deal with finance and property issues.

Award winner

The Leadership BES has already attracted two international awards for its rigour and value. Like its predecessors on professional learning and development and effective pedagogy in mathematics, this BES will be published in summary form by UNES CO’s International Academy of Education and the International Bureau of Education in many languages around the world.