Current Research on Leading, Learning, and Leadership Support

The relationship between leadership and learning has been a centerpiece of CTP's conceptual and empirical work over the past five years. Currently, with generous funding from The Wallace Foundation, we are investigating a variety of issues that confront the exercise of learning-focused leadership in schools, districts, and states. In seven urban districts nationwide, research pursues the reconfiguration of school leadership roles, the transformation of central office to support learning-focused leadership in schools, and the reallocation of staffing resources to support a learning agenda. Our work in the leadership line of research falls into three phases:

Conceptual groundwork: The relation between leadership and learning

An initial grant in 2001 from The Wallace Foundation enabled CTP to develop a grounded conceptualization of the relationship between school and district leadership and student, professional, and system learning. The first two publications listed are products of that effort. The third publication, also a conceptual piece, offers an overview of leadership and leadership support in relation to the overarching goal of improving learning.

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  1. Leading, Learning, and Leadership Support
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Michael S. Knapp, Michael A. Copland, Margaret L. Plecki, and Bradley S. Portin, October 2006.
    Description:

    This report maps out activities and supporting conditions in states, districts, and schools, that enable educational leadership to exert productive influence on learning. The report draws together threads from the research literature and from practical experimentation in a variety of states, districts, and schools, as described in greater detail within six reports that comprise the Improving Leadership for Learning series. From these sources, the report authors offer an overview of the "systems of leadership support" that guide leaders' efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools across the nation.

    PDFExecutive Summary
  2. Leading for Learning: Reflective Tools for School and District Leaders
    A CTP Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation, February 2003.
    Description:

    A 32-page, research-based report that addresses links between leadership and learning. Three learning agendas are discussed and five ways to address those agendas are detailed.

    PDFPromotional FlyerOriginal Study
  3. Leading for Learning Sourcebook: Concepts and Examples
    A CTP Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation, February 2003.
    Description:

    This 112-page report is the document on which the 32-page summary was based. It discusses ideas in greater depth and offers more examples of the ideas at work.

    PDFPromotional FlyerOriginal Study

Synthesizing existing knowledge of leadership and leadership support

In 2005, a second grant from The Wallace Foundation allowed CTP to delve more deeply into the issue of leadership and learning and in so doing create a series of state-of-the field reports that synthesize what is known about leadership and leadership support issues. The first report below offers an overview of leadership and leadership support in relation to the overarching goal of improving learning. The subsequent six reports clarify a single leadership issue, while assembling what is known from recent scholarships. The information in these reports lays the groundwork for further study and practical experimentation by leaders and reformers in states, districts, and schools. See:

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  1. Leading, Learning, and Leadership Support
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Michael S. Knapp, Michael A. Copland, Margaret L. Plecki, and Bradley S. Portin, October 2006.
    Description:

    This report maps out activities and supporting conditions in states, districts, and schools, that enable educational leadership to exert productive influence on learning. The report draws together threads from the research literature and from practical experimentation in a variety of states, districts, and schools, as described in greater detail within six reports that comprise the Improving Leadership for Learning series. From these sources, the report authors offer an overview of the "systems of leadership support" that guide leaders' efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools across the nation.

    PDFExecutive Summary
  2. Leadership for Transforming High Schools
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Michael A. Copland and Elizabeth Boatright, December 2006.
    Description:

    This report addresses the complexity of problems associated with traditional comprehensive high schools. It examines why, despite repeated calls for reform, and various efforts aimed at reform, evidence suggests that what transpires for students inside the high school classroom remains relatively impervious to change. A picture of the terrain of leadership activity important for transforming high schools is proposed followed by questions of how the work of leadership might be accomplished.

    PDF
  3. Allocating Resources and Creating Incentives to Improve Teaching and Learning
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Margaret L. Plecki, Christopher R. Alejano, Michael S. Knapp, and Chad Lochmiller October 2006.
    Description:

    This report reviews research, practice, and theory related to resource allocation and its relationship to teaching and learning. The report describes the "state of the field," discussing a range of practices, both current and emerging, while framing the central challenges facing leaders who make resource decisions at the state, district, and school levels. The report links the allocation of resources to the exercise of learning-focused leadership.

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  4. Data-informed Leadership in Education
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Michael S. Knapp, Juli Ann Swinnerton, Michael A. Copland, and Jack Monpas-Huber, October 2006.
    Description:

    Drawing from empirical studies and the landscape of current practice, this report explores ideas related to how educational leaders access data, the meanings they give to it, and the uses to which they put these data in the varying settings in which leaders seek to improve teaching and learning. Moving away from the potentially appealing rhetoric that data can provide clear, indisputable direction for future action (e.g. "data-driven decision making"), the notion of data-informed leadership captures the complex and often ambiguous nature of data use in educational settings.

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  5. Purposes, Uses, and Practices of Leadership Assessment in Education
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Bradley S. Portin, Sue Feldman, and Michael S. Knapp, October 2006.
    Description:

    This report discusses connections between learning-focused school leadership and leadership assessment as it contributes to coherent leadership assessment systems. Drawing upon exemplary research, and through the use of scenarios drawn from common school leadership assessment practices, this report outlines multiple purposes and uses of leadership assessment in national, state and local contexts. The central theme of the report is connecting learning-focused leadership with leadership assessment.

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  6. Redefining and Improving School District Governance
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Margaret L. Plecki, Julie McCleery, and Michael S. Knapp, October 2006.
    Description:

    This paper takes a close look at local school boards-an enduring feature of public education governance. Using published accounts in the research literature, the paper synthesizes the frameworks, beliefs, and activities concerning the roles and responsibilities of the district school board. Using three common critiques of modern school boards as a guide, the paper further identifies the underlying currents of governance reform, conditions that influence governance structure, and the connections between governance and learning-focused leadership.

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  7. Redefining Roles, Responsibility, and Authority of School Leaders
    A Research Report in collaboration with The Wallace Foundation by Bradley S. Portin, Christopher R. Alejano, and Michael S. Knapp, October 2006.
    Description:

    This report considers school leaders' roles and responsibilities, and the authority they need to pursue an agenda of improving teaching and learning. The report frames what it means to lead schools toward improvements in teaching and learning, who does or can exercise that leadership (including but not limited to the principal), how leaders can be equipped to lead learning communities, what conditions empower leaders to lead in this way, and how such leadership is cultivated in individuals or school communities over time.

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Investigating leadership for learning improvement

With funding from The Wallace Foundation, the large-scale Study of Leadership for Learning Improvement currently examines three related issues in a set of seven urban districts (and schools within them), located in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon: 1) the reconfiguration of school leadership roles to support learning improvement, 2) the transformation of the school district central office to support learning-focused leadership, and 3) the reallocation of staffing and other resources to support a learning improvement agenda. The investigation is also tracking the state role in supporting learning-focused leadership. For a brief description of the overall study and substudies, now in progress, see flyers describing them:

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