The Relationship between Principal Characteristics and Student Achievement


Is a principal’s educational experience, professional behavior, or leadership style related to increased student learning? This systematic review of the literature conducted by Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast with support from the Institutes of Education Sciences answers these questions.

The research team identified 52 peer-reviewed studies that met the review criteria, including:

  • One experimental study that examined a principal intervention designed to improve student achievement. In this study, grade 8 students randomly assigned to have one-on-one conversations with the principal scored higher on the state English language arts test.
  • Thirty-eight quantitative and two mixed method studies that found some positive correlations between some principal characteristics and student achievement; 11 qualitative studies mirrored the quantitative findings.

This review included studies conducted in all 50 states, at least 329 school districts, and at least 8,363 schools.

Select findings include the following:

One experimental study found that a principal talking with students about their performance prior to a statewide test increased test scores.

Three studies found evidence to support the inclusion of Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium standards in principal preparation programs.

Three studies found positive effects of principals monitoring and providing feedback.

Four studies found positive effects between principals’ having a vision for student learning and improved student learning.

Research supports a relationship between principals providing support for professional development and student achievement.

Three of the five studies that addressed the relationships between principals’ time spent on and the effectiveness of their organizational management tasks and student achievement found that the percentage of time principals spent on organizational management tasks was positively associated with student achievement.

For more information read the report.