What does the latest research say about head teachers?

This research brief from the RAND Corporation presents a summary of research on first-year principals’ (head teachers in the UK) experiences, actions, working conditions, and outcomes. It was created to inform efforts to promote school improvement and principal retention. To complete their study, RAND researchers looked at the experiences of first-year principals in six districts across the US. Findings included:

  • More than a fifth of first-year principals left their school within two years;
  • Schools that lost a principal after one year underperformed the following year;
  • The quality of principals’ actions was more relevant to outcomes than the amount of time devoted to the actions;
  • Greater teacher capacity and cohesiveness were related to better pupil outcomes; and
  • Principals’ personnel management skills are important.

Source: Challenges and opportunities facing principals in the first year at a school (2012), RAND Corporation

Policies to help disadvantaged pupils

New research from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) looks at international data to explore how disadvantaged pupils can best be supported, and the findings emphasise fairness and inclusion.

Recommendations include using teaching practices that are known to make a difference for low-performing pupils, deferring any selection or ability grouping until the later secondary years to avoid exacerbating inequities, and attracting, supporting, and retaining high-quality teachers.

Source: Equity and quality in education – supporting disadvantaged students and schools (2011), OECD

Evaluating reading coach quality

A study from the RAND Corporation examines what makes for good reading coaches and coaching. The study included 113 schools from 8 districts in Florida. All used reading coaches to work with school staff to improve their reading teaching and leadership skills. The data showed no relationship between teacher and principal perceptions of coach quality and students’ reading achievement.

The researchers suggest that being an effective literacy coach may require more than content-area expertise and experience teaching children. They identify “understanding how to support adult learners” as a key area of expertise that was sometimes lacking with the coaches in the study.

Source: Reading Coach Quality: Findings from Florida Middle Schools (2012), Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(1).