What factors influence student achievement?

Why is this question important? Given the past failures of education reform to make significant improvements in student performance, it is reasonable to focus on those factors that research has shown have the greatest influence on achievement. An ample knowledge base tells us that teachers account for a substantial share of the influence on student's performance, and now a growing body of evidence points to school leadership playing a powerful role in the success of students. Research by Marzano, Waters, and McNulty (2005) suggests that the roles of principals and superintendents are notable enough to make it imperative that educators seek ways of advancing leadership skills as part of school improvement and reform efforts.

See further discussion below.


Source(s): School Leadership That Works: From Research to Results

Result(s): The research identified 21 categories of leadership present in effective leaders. The most important skill that principals should possess was identified as situational awareness, or the ability of the leader to accurately assess the issues and undercurrents at a school and use this information to solve problems. The second highest rated skill was flexibility, the ability to adapt to meet current needs. The third most important element was discipline, the ability to effectively protect teachers from excessive interruptions and allow them to focus on teaching and instruction. In summary, the authors established an overall effect size of 0.25 for the impact of principals on student performance. Their book also offers practical recommendations on how to develop an action plan to effectively use 11 of the categories to improve student achievement.

Implication(s): By focusing reform on just two factors—teachers and principals—reform efforts are addressing almost 60% of the factors influencing student achievement. It is important to note that just knowing that these two factors are pivotal in building effective schools is not enough. It is also essential that teachers and principals engage in practices that the research identified as making a difference and executing them as intended.

Author(s): Robert Marzano, Tim Waters, and Brian McNulty

Publisher(s): Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Study Description: The research is compiled in a book that identifies categories of behaviors critical in effective school leadership. Marzano et al. conducted a meta-analysis of 69 leadership studies carried out between 1978 and 2001 to establish an effect size for the relationship between principals and student achievement.


Citation: Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.