7 Things A School Principal Can Do To Boost Student Results

7 Things A School Principal Can Do To Boost Student Results.


We now know that teachers have more impact on school results than home or school-based factors. However, can principals make a real difference in how well students do at school?

The short answer is yes. Yet, not all principals do.

The reality is there are certain actions that a school principal can do that have a significant effect on student achievement, while other actions have little, if any, impact at all.

After reviewing the research, here are 7 proven things you can do to improve student results.



Focus your leadership: Principals have so many demands on their time that it is crucial for you to prioritize how you spend it. Specifically, an effective school principal focuses their leadership on teaching and learning. Research shows that principals who do this have far more impact than those who don’t.

While an effective school principal may embrace aspects of generic leadership models, such as transformational leadership, they apply them in ways that reflect the importance of teaching and learning:

  • Challenging the status quo of current levels of student performance
  • Espouse a noble cause by setting ambitious academic goals
  • Provide intellectual stimulation through discussing evidence based teaching

Transformational leadership that is not focused on teaching and learning has far less impact.

Leadership Factor Impact - Focus

?????????????????????????Professional Development

Promote and participate in professional development for teachers:Research shows that quality professional development for teachers has a substantial impact on student results. The most effective professional development includes modelling, practice and feedback; and they occur over an extended period of time.

The professional development you offer must be focused on teaching and learning.

  • Promote evidence based approaches to teaching
  • Explore the science of how students really learn
  • Monitor the impact of professional development on student results

Leadership Factor Impact - PD


Evaluating Teaching & Learning

Evaluating teaching and learning: Gone are the days where monitoring students involved nothing more than skimming through their planning. An effective school principal is fundamentally concerned with monitoring the impact that their teachers are having on students, and then helping teachers to have an even greater impact. In this way, teaching is primarily evaluated in terms of its impact on learning.

Yet, this is not about finding underperforming classes and blaming the teacher. Rather, it involves monitoring students’ progress from where they were to where you want them to be. Then, if you find the progress is not what you desire, you problem-solve with the teacher as they continue refining their efforts until the desired progress is being made.

Traditional evaluation techniques, such as looking at planning and observing teachers in their classroom still have their place. These techniques can help you ensure that:

  • Teachers are clear about what students must master in order to succeed
  • Planned assessment tasks actually measure the right things
  • Teachers are using evidence based teaching strategies

However, these are all inputs that are designed to improve student results. They are not a result in themselves, so your evaluation must focus on student progress.

Leadership Factor Impact - Evaluation


Accelerate more students: Acceleration involves allowing students to make their way through the curriculum at a faster rate than normal – typically through allowing them to skip a grade.

When you accelerate bright students, they progress a lot further than when you try to cater for them through within-class enrichment. They actually end up achieving just as well as the bright students in their new year level.

At present, acceleration is not common, largely due to people worrying about it causing interpersonal problems. However, research shows that accelerated students have less social issues than similar students who remain in their own year level. Furthermore, the potential stigma associated with being accelerated becomes far less potent when acceleration becomes a common practice.

Leadership Factor Impact - Acceleration

5Protect Your Teachers

Protect your teachers from extraneous demands: Teachers have more impact on student results than other factors, but only when they are focusing their time and energy on teaching.

An effective school principal will actively seek to protect their teachers from ‘additional tasks’, allowing them to spend their time on their core business  – teaching the children in their care. Students deserve to have their teachers’ energies focused on them.

Research shows that buffering teachers from extraneous demands improves student results, while failing to protect your teachers has a negative impact.

For more information check out the article How To Protect Your Teachers From Extraneous Demands.

Leadership Factor - Protecting Teachers

6Strategic Resourcing

Align resource allocation with the strategic goals of the school: As Robert Marzano says, principals need to provide teachers with the materials that they need to do their job. However, no matter how many resources we have, caring teachers always want more; not for any selfish reason – but so they can do even more for their students.

An effective school principal realises that resources are limited and works with teachers to prioritise what they can buy. They focus their decisions on those things that will have the biggest impact on student’s results. Rather than giving teachers and department heads free reign, they discuss resources as part of the evaluation process at both individual and collective levels – i.e. what can we buy to help you get the results we desire?

Leadership Factors Impact Strategic Resourcing

7Disruptive Students

Reducing the impact of disruptive students: The presence of a single disruptive student has a negative effect on students’ results – i.e. the results of the student himself, and the results of other students in the class.

Much of this can be addressed through helping teachers to become better at managing students’ behaviour. However, no matter how good a teacher is, there will still be some students who continue to rock the apple cart.

An astute school principal recognises this, and organises structured support programs to help these students change their behaviour. Research shows that the most effective support programs include behavioural interventions (e.g. Bill Roger’s Behaviour Recovery) and pressing students to achieve more academically. Such programs succeed for 78% of disruptive students.

Leadership Factors Impact - Disruptive Behaviour

One Thing Not To Do

Repeating students: While it is not an everyday practice, most principals have made the decision to repeat a student. This may be because they have fallen behind in the work, or because the teacher believes they are not ‘developmentally ready’ to go up a grade.

However, repeating students doesn’t work. In fact, it does more harm than good, with research showing that it actually has a negative effect on academic outcomes.

Leadership Factors Impact - Repeating


A propos stevebissonnette2012

Monsieur Steve Bissonnette est professeur titulaire au Département d'éducation à la TÉLUQ depuis juin 2012. Au cours des années précédentes, il a également été professeur et directeur adjoint au Département de psychoéducation de l'Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) au campus de Saint-Jérôme. Son domaine de spécialisation est l'intervention en milieu scolaire. Il a travaillé, pendant plus de 25 ans, auprès des élèves en difficulté et du personnel scolaire dans les écoles élémentaires et secondaires ainsi qu'en Centre Jeunesse. Le professeur de la TÉLUQ s'intéresse aux travaux sur l'efficacité de l'enseignement et des écoles, à l'enseignement explicite, à la gestion efficace des comportements ainsi qu'aux approches pédagogiques favorisant la réussite des élèves en difficulté. Monsieur Bissonnette est le premier chercheur canadien dont les travaux portent spécifiquement sur l’implantation d'un modèle de réponse à l'intervention comportementale soit le Soutien au Comportement Positif (SCP) ou Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) dans les écoles francophones, et ce, depuis plus de 10 ans. De plus, le professeur Bissonnette collabore avec l'Université de Liège et celle de Mons à la mise en oeuvre du SCP dans les écoles belges. Le SCP implanté à la commission scolaire des Laurentides, avec notre équipe de recherche, s'est mérité en 2019 le prix du ministère de la Famille « Ensemble contre l’intimidation, catégorie milieu scolaire ». Le chercheur de la TÉLUQ a prononcé plus de 500 communications en éducation et a participé à la rédaction de plus de 70 publications sur le thème de l'efficacité de l'enseignement et des écoles, dont son dernier ouvrage L'Enseignement explicite des comportements (2016). Au printemps 2012, monsieur Bissonnette a reçu, des étudiants en psychoéducation de l'UQO au campus de Saint-Jérôme, une mention d'honneur pour la qualité de son enseignement. À l'automne 2017, monsieur Bissonnette a reçu une mention d'honneur décernée par la TELUQ pour sa contribution au développement de l'université dans la catégorie Excellence en enseignement. Le professeur de la TELUQ est chercheur associé au Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE) ainsi qu'au Centre de transfert pour la réussite éducative du Québec (CTREQ).
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