Do Principals Feel They Have Influence Over Decisions in Their School?

August 25, 2021

Principals’ Perceptions of Influence Over Decisions at Their Schools in 2017-2018. Contemporary models of principal leadership are that principals are expected to be the instructional leaders in their schools.  At least two questions emerge from this expectation: (1) Do principals have the ability to influence instructional decisions in their schools? (2) Do principals have the necessary training to base instructional decisions on the best available evidence?  In a recent report published by the National Center for Education Statistics at IES (July, 2021), the degree to which principals in traditional public schools, private schools, and charter schools felt like they have influence over decisions across a number of domains of school leadership was assessed.  The degree to which they felt they had influence was related to the type of school in which they were working.  Particularly, interesting from the perspective of principals as instructional leaders, is that only 39% of principals in traditional public schools felt like they had influence over establishing curriculum.  This figure is considerably lower than for principals in private schools (69%) and principals in public charter schools (59%).  This raises the question do traditional public school principals have a commitment to the curriculum choices that are made?  If they do not, then one has to wonder if they will be champions for the curriculum and effective instructional leaders?  In terms of the Active Implementation Frameworks, effective implementation of the model of principals as instructional leaders requires that principals be involved in the identification of useable innovations, the actual implementation of the innovation in their school, and access to the data about the effectiveness of the innovation.  In addition, if principals are to be effective instructional leaders then the competency drivers of selection, training, and coaching need to be present so principals will have the necessary skills to function in those roles.  Finally, the leadership drivers of technical skills and adaptive leadership skills are necessary to adapt an instructional practice into a particular organizational and school context.  It would be interesting to see how the practices in private schools and public charter schools differ from traditional public schools that results in principals reporting they have influence over decisions involving curriculum.  This article only addresses the question of do principals have influence over curriculum decisions?  It does not address the extent to which principals have the skills to base decisions on best available evidence. Please see the Wing Institute paper on Best Available Evidence ( for more on this topic.

Citation: National Center for Education Statistics at IES. (2021).  Principals’ Perceptions of Influence Over Decisions at Their Schools in 2017-2018.