Pointless principals?

12th May 2000 at 01:00

RESEARCHERS have some deflating news for US high school principals - they have little effect on pupils' test scores.

Alexander Wiseman and Brian Goesling reached this conclusion after comparing 13-year-olds' maths scores with information about their principals' working hours and style of leadership.

The Pennsylvania State University researchers say: "We found evidence that principals' behaviours do not significantly or consistently influence student achievement."

Wiseman and Goesling, who analysed data produced by the 1995 Third International Maths and Science Study, said that the relationship between maths results and the tim principals spent on "internal school activities" was statistically significant but relatively unimportant. The effect of this was dwarfed by socio-economic factors

"The amount of time principals spent on internal activities ... can account for no more than a 15-point difference in the mean math achievement scores between schools in this sample," they say. "In comparison, the school-level effect of socio-economic status can account for over 100 point differences."

"Principals' educational leadership behaviour, curricular centralisation and student achievement: an internationally comparative examination of cause and coincidence", by Alexander W Wiseman and Brian Goesling.

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