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School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES)



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School Leadership
and Student Outcomes:
Identifying What Works
and Why
Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]
Viviane Robinson, Margie Hohepa, and Claire Lloyd
The University of Auckland
Chapter 6
This report is one of a series of best evidence synthesis iterations (BESs) commissioned by
the Ministry of Education. The Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme is seeking to
support collaborative knowledge building and use across policy, research, and practice in
education. This series of syntheses draws together bodies of research evidence to explain
what works and why to improve valued education outcomes and to make a bigger difference
for the education of all our children and young people. Each synthesis celebrates the work
of educators and the inquiry processes that enable educators and researchers to bring about
sustainable improvements in education. Each is part of an iterative process that anticipates
future research and development informing educational practice.
Earlier BESs have focused on effective teaching and professional learning in schools and on the
impact of family and community influences on educational outcomes. This School Leadership
and Student Outcomes BES will prove a crucial support for school leaders as they address our
shared challenge of preparing all our children for the future.
The International Academy of Education has commissioned summaries of the recent BESs
developed by the Ministry of Education. While the full reports provide the explanations and
vignettes that are needed to support educational change, these short summaries will also be a
convenient help for leaders. They will be available on the International Academy of Education
website and on the UNESCO website The first of
these summaries to be published is:
Timperley, H. (2008). Teacher professional learning and development: Educational practices
series 18. International Academy of Education, International Bureau of Education & UNESCO.
Further information is available at, and feedback is
welcome at
Published by the Ministry of Education, Box 1666, Wellington, New Zealand 6140
Copyright © Crown 2009
All rights reserved. Enquiries should be made to the publisher.
New Zealand educators and educational leaders can order a hard copy of this publication from
While recognising that the development of a best evidence synthesis is a collaborative
undertaking based on scoping and national guidelines developed by the New Zealand Ministry
of Education and incorporating contributions from many others with relevant expertise,
Viviane Robinson, Margie Hohepa, and Claire Lloyd assert their moral right to be recognised
as the authors of this work
Dewey number 371.2
ISBN 978 0 7903 3265 9
Item number 33265
PDF ISBN 978 0 7903 3266 6
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10 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
The development of this synthesis has been a collaborative effort that has benefited from the
support of many people.
The first acknowledgment must go to Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Chief Education Adviser, Ministry
of Education, for without her vision and determination there would have been no Best Evidence
Synthesis Programme. We are grateful, too, that Dr Alton-Lee recognised that it was of critical
importance that the programme met the standards of excellence required by both research
and practitioner communities.
The writers brought together an advisory group to provide sociological and methodological
expertise, professional sector knowledge, and advice and feedback in a range of relevant areas,
including Màori and Pasifika schooling. This group comprised Associate Professor Brian Haig,
Professor Richard Harker, David Hodge, Debi Marshall-Lobb, Bev Pitkethley, Dr Kabini Sanga,
Tali Temese, and Arapine Walker. We are grateful to these people for their wisdom, patience,
and support.
We would also like to thank a number of others for their input at various stages in the iterative
process by which this BES was developed:
Michael Mintrom assisted with initial scoping and with analysis of the New Zealand policy
context. Professor John Hattie, Dr Ken Rowe, and Associate Professor Gavin Brown contributed
extensively to the calculation and interpretation of effect sizes. Professor John Hattie and
Professor Herb Walberg provided generous expert assistance with the meta-analysis and
quality assurance for the content of Chapter 7. Dr Cathy Wylie made a crucial contribution to
sections relating to the New Zealand educational context. By enhancing our understanding of
sector-based issues, David Eddy helped us make the work accessible to practitioners. Retired
Professor Patu Hohepa provided important feedback on our use of Màori terminology.
The authors of the studies on which the cases are based—Jeanne Biddulph, Dr Bryan Tuck, Dr
Graeme Aitken, Dr Claire Sinnema, Professor Helen Timperley, Dr Barbara Scott-Nelson, Dr
Mere Berryman, and Professor Ted Glynn—provided valuable advice and guidance.
Luke Williams made a substantial contribution to the organisation and preparation of the
database of New Zealand theses. Cathie Benson and Beverley Thomson of the New Zealand
Council for Educational Research created the national database of theses relevant to educational
The team at the Ministry of Education, led by Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee and supported by
Darren Gammie, provided ongoing advice and, as the BES went through its many iterations,
contributed significantly to its final shape. Dr Alton-Lee also extensively promoted this work
among key stakeholders in New Zealand and members of the international educational research
An external management group, comprising representatives of numerous professional
stakeholder groups and associations, provided oversight and timely feedback on key issues
and sector-based concerns. We are particularly grateful to those members of this group who
gave detailed feedback on drafts of the chapters.
Professor Ben Levin of the University of Toronto and Professor Michel Fullan acted as external
quality assurors, bringing their considerable expertise and experience to this work. We have
benefited greatly from their thoughtful feedback and critique. A number of other international
experts, including Professor William Firestone of Rutgers University, Professor Kenneth
Leithwood of the University of Toronto, Professor Karen Seashore Louis of the University of
Minnesota, Professor Allan Luke of the University of Queensland, and Professor Doug Wilms of
the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy, offered advice and encouragement.
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 11
We are particularly grateful to Dr Claire Sinnema for her expertise in document formatting and
creating figures and charts. We would also like to thank Sandie Gusscott of UniServices for her
management of the contract and her tireless support of the writers.
Finally, we would like to thank our families for their patience and support as we worked
through all the challenges associated with this project.
Viviane Robinson
Margie Hohepa
Claire Lloyd
Nàu te rourou, nàku te rourou, ka ora te iwi.
Through each of our contributions the people will thrive.
104 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
6. Leading the improvement of teaching and
As discussed in Chapter 3, there is little New Zealand research that links school leadership
with student outcomes. The question arises, therefore, as to whether leadership dimensions
derived from an analysis of international evidence are applicable to the New Zealand context
and, more particularly, to the Màori-medium context.
The dimensions were checked for relevance by comparing them with those that emerged from
a second, independent analysis of evaluations of initiatives to improve teaching and learning in
New Zealand schools. This time, the starting point was not theories of leadership, as in Chapter
4, but initiatives that have had a demonstrable impact on one or more valued student outcomes.
Starting with this evidence, and using the process of backward mapping described below, we
derived the leadership dimensions that supported teachers in their work of improving student
achievement and well-being.
While these evaluation studies were not designed as studies of leadership, they include
descriptions of the role played by leaders in the improvement process. From these descriptions,
we derived six dimensions. Because New Zealand initiatives to improve teaching and learning
typically involve partnerships between school leaders, researchers, professional developers,
and Ministry officials, these dimensions reflect a widely distributed approach to the leadership
of school improvement
. The evidence from which the dimensions are derived comes
predominantly from primary schools. Although many of our findings will also be applicable to
secondary schools, much more research is needed on the leadership of teaching and learning
in this sector.
In the following sections, we briefly review the procedures used to identify the leadership
dimensions associated with enhanced student outcomes. We then describe each of these
dimensions and explain how they work. Both positive and negative illustrations are used to
exemplify and discriminate the particular qualities that make these dimensions effective.
6.1 Research approach
Two sets of studies informed our analysis. The first set was selected from a recent Best Evidence
Synthesis Iteration
, which identified the attributes of teacher professional learning that has
a positive impact on student outcomes
. From this synthesis, we identified 16 quantitative
studies that rated medium to high in terms of methodological adequacy and medium to high
in terms of impact on student outcomes (as measured by effect size)
. Fifteen of these studies
measured academic outcomes, and one, social outcomes. Seven were conducted in primary
schools, one in an intermediate school, and one in a secondary school. Seven involved a cross-
sector analysis
See Annan, B. (2006). A theory of schooling improvement: Connectivity and consistency to improve instructional
practice. Unpublished doctoral thesis, The University of Auckland.
Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best
evidence synthesis iteration (BES). Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Outcomes were defi ned as: greater academic achievement; enhanced personal identity, self-esteem, self-concept,
or attitudes towards learning; improved interactions with and acceptance by peers and teachers; greater school
An effect size between 0 and .20 was taken to mean a weak or non-existent impact; between .20 and .40 as a
small but educationally signifi cant impact; between .40 and .60 as a medium, educationally signifi cant impact;
and greater than .60 as a large, educationally signifi cant impact. Where effect sizes were not provided by the
authors of the individual studies, the BES advisors computed effect sizes from the data provided.
One study did not report the sector involved.
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 105
A second set of quantitative studies, 15 in all, was drawn from published reports and
unpublished theses
of research undertaken in New Zealand schools. These studies assessed
the impact on student outcomes of a variety of initiatives, all focused on pedagogical practice.
Sufficient information was provided for us to be confident that the design of the studies and
the reporting of data met the BES guidelines. Eight of these studies related to Màori-medium
contexts and seven to English-medium contexts. Thirteen were conducted in primary schools;
one involved a cross-sector analysis
Thirteen of the studies measured academic outcomes and one, both academic and social
. Effect sizes for the English-medium studies were either directly reported or
obtained from other evaluations of the same initiatives. The eight Màori-medium studies did
not provide effect sizes but reported outcomes as pre-/post-intervention gain scores. We judged
the educational significance of these interventions for the targeted students and included only
those studies that provided evidence of positive outcomes. In many cases, the evidence was
weak and the changes, though positive, were not strong. We nevertheless included these studies
to ensure that our leadership dimensions were derived from both Màori- and English-medium
educational contexts.
After reading each study and taking detailed notes on every aspect of leadership mentioned, we
did an analysis of key themes, initially identifying 23 categories of leadership. These categories
were entered into an Excel™ spreadsheet, together with details of the studies and outcomes
for students. An iterative checking process was then undertaken to ensure that the categories
identified adequately represented the specific characteristics of leadership mentioned in
each study, particularly the characteristics found in the studies situated in Màori-medium
Into the spreadsheet we added brief descriptions of the leadership practices included under
the different categories, and identified exactly who the authors were referring to when they
used the term ‘leadership’. We then critiqued the entries under each category and merged
categories with similar meanings. Categories with fewer than three entries were removed. As
a result of this process, the initial 23 categories were merged into the six broad dimensions
listed in Figure 16 and discussed in the remainder of this chapter. Additional studies were
located that provided theoretical depth and rich descriptions of the practices captured by each
dimension—in some instances, descriptions of contrasting negative cases.
Figure 16. The strategy used to derive six leadership dimensions from New Zealand evidence
The methodology used for selecting theses is described in Chapter 3.
In one study, we were unable to identify the sector.
In one study, we were unable to identify the outcomes being measured.
Selecting, developing, and using
smart tools
Engaging in constructive problem
Creating a community that learns
how to improve student success
Creating educationally powerful
Obtaining and allocating resources
aligned to pedagogical goals
Setting educational goals
dimensions of
Identified 23
categories of
Noted all
aspects of
31 studies with
eviidence about
the links
teaching and
106 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
6.2 What is the role of leadership in developing
effective teaching?
Each of the six leadership dimensions identified by our analysis is defined, illustrated, and
explained in the following sections. Since we wish to avoid creating a leadership checklist, we
have attended particularly to the principles and values that explain what makes the different
dimensions powerful. In some cases, this has involved linking dimensions with relevant
theory. Our discussion of goal setting, for example, includes both practical examples and a
brief account of goal-setting theory. The findings of the Teacher Professional Learning and
Development BES show that provision of underlying principles and theory, together with linked
practical examples, is a feature of effective professional learning experiences
Dimension A: Setting educational goals
Setting and communicating goals for teacher and student learning was one of the most obvious
exercises of leadership reported by the 31 studies. In many of the improvement projects
researched, external leadership set overarching objectives to be followed by all participants.
Within these overarching objectives, however, there was usually scope for schools to formulate
their own goals. For example, an objective of the national Literacy Leadership Project
to increase the ability of school leaders to work with their staff in ways that improved the
literacy of their lowest-performing students. Leaders were required to use an evidence-based
analysis of student needs to set specific goals for improving some aspect of literacy. Progress
towards the goal was to be monitored through the school’s own action-research project. So,
although policy makers, researchers, and programme developers were instrumental in setting
the overall objectives in this and other initiatives, school leaders had an important role in
setting goals that were tailored to the specific needs of their students.
From the studies, it emerges that leaders can set goals effectively if they:
establish the importance of the selected goals;
ensure that goals are clear;
develop the capacity to set appropriate goals.
Leadership establishes the importance of the selected goals
Goals do not motivate unless they are seen to be important. They gain importance by being
linked to wider philosophical and moral purposes. Articulating and gaining commitment
to such purposes is part of what is meant by visionary leadership. Unlike the research on
transformational leadership discussed in Chapter 4, none of the studies used in this analysis
discussed or evaluated leadership vision. This is probably because moral and philosophical
commitment can be deeply embedded in leadership practice and, unlike a leaders speech or
writing, not easily recognised as visionary. Yet it is apparent in some of these studies that
the personal commitment of leaders was central to establishing the importance of a goal. In
some cases, it was a leader’s driving moral or philosophical purpose that, along with relevant
evidence, enabled them to recognise a discrepancy between current and desired achievement
and led them to discuss this discrepancy with others. It then became their goal to reduce
the discrepancy—not for compliance reasons but from a need to be true to themselves. The
link between personal, moral, or philosophical commitment and goals is illustrated in Box 3.
The context is a kura literacy programme led by the tumuaki in conjunction with an external
Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung (2007), op. cit.
For an evaluation of this initiative and schools’ capacity to set goals based on evidence of student need, see
Timperley, H. S., Parr, J., & Higginson, R. M. (2003). Evaluation of the Literacy Leadership initiative: The
enhancement programme 2001. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Timperley, H. S. (2005b). Instructional leadership challenges: The case of using student achievement information
for instructional improvement. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 4, pp. 3–22.
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 107
researcher and the kura whànau. The goals of the literacy programme are encompassed by
a wider vision held by Màori, to which the kura whànau is committed—a vision for the Màori
language, cultural regeneration, and educational achievement.
Box 3. Establishing goal importance by making links to moral and philosophical commitments
The tumuaki and whànau leadership of a kura kaupapa Màori cared deeply about the fact
that their year 8 students who were highly competent in Màori were struggling when they
entered the bilingual programme at the local secondary school (the only option available).
They believed that this was due in part to their failure to adequately prepare their students to
confidently and competently meet the challenge of learning through the medium of English.
The problem was important to them because their graduates were still part of the kura
whànau and were therefore still their responsibility. The kura whànau were committed to
the principle, enunciated in Te Aho Matua
and elsewhere, of competency in both Màori and
English. This commitment led the kura whànau and tumuaki to collaborate with a literacy
researcher in the delivery of a 10-week English-medium literacy programme. The explicit
goal was to improve reading and writing in English while maintaining or improvingori
language and literacy. Post-intervention assessment showed that the gains made during the
programme were being maintained one or two terms later. The inclusive, explicit discussion
of the problem, combined with a whànau sense of collective responsibility, ensured that all
those involved saw the goal as urgent and important
Further evidence that it is important to link goals to wider moral and philosophical purposes
comes from a follow-up evaluation of an early literacy intervention in seven South Auckland
primary schools
. School leaders (principals and senior management teams) were asked
why they joined this project. The three most successful schools (as measured by pre-/
post-intervention gains in achievement) were distinguished from the others by their frank
acknowledgment that dissatisfaction with current reading achievement was one of their reasons
for participating. The principals who did not mention achievement said that they had joined
the project either because of its fit with their current programme, or because any professional
development would be helpful, or because it was sponsored by the Ministry of Education. It is
likely that these reasons would have been less compelling for teachers than an open, principal-
led discussion of literacy achievement, followed by the principal’s explicit commitment to work
with staff to raise literacy levels.
The value of linking goals to a compelling moral purpose is also seen in a South Island schools
journey “from a deficit model of special education needs programming to an inclusive model
of student learning support”
. The senior management team wanted to move from a special
class model to one that was more inclusive and classroom-based. They were keen to do this
because they had increasing numbers of moderate needs children and because they believed
(in line with the National Administration Guidelines) that “meeting the needs of all students
was a mandatory part of every teacher’s job”. This moral purpose was embodied in goals
to enhance the reading achievement, parent–school relationships, and self-esteem of a pilot
group of 26 students, drawn from every class in the school except new entrants.
Leaders give symbolic messages about what is important by what they choose to attend and
how they participate. Leaders who not only attend, but also participate in the workshops and
meetings associated with an initiative, signal their commitment to its goals and a determination
Te Aho Matua is a philosophy specifi cally developed for kura kaupapa Màori that describes operational principles
and principles for teaching and learning.
This vignette is based on Berryman, M. A. (2001). Toitù te whànau, toitù te iwi: A community approach to
English transition. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Timperley, H. S., & Wiseman, J. (2003). The sustainability of professional development in literacy: Part Two:
School-based factors associated with high student achievement. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Morris, C., & Katon, S. (2006). A torrent of change: Enhancing effective change in special education—one
school’s journey. Kairaranga, 7(Special Edition), pp. 28–32.
108 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
to support their staff to successfully implement it and achieve the desired outcomes
. Presence
and visibility (being a ‘seen face, kanohi kitea or kia kite a-kanohi) is an important aspect
of Màori leadership. Researchers often noted, but without explaining why, that the active
support and participation of leaders was an important characteristic of successful, sustainable
Leadership ensures that goals are clear
According to the considerable literature on goal setting
, one of the requirements for
effectiveness is that goals are clear and unambiguous. Teachers know that this is true when
setting student learning outcomes—it is also true when setting goals for the improvement of
teaching. Goals are clearer when they include a target and a timeframe (for example, 80% of
all students will be at age-expected levels by the end of year 1).
The role of targets was investigated in connection with the Numeracy Development Project
In 13 of the 19 schools involved in the longitudinal evaluation, at least 75% of teachers reported
using achievement targets for numeracy. In these schools, with the exception of two year
levels, fewer students than in the other six schools were working at the lower stages of the
Number Framework.
No matter how often they are articulated by leadership, goals are not clear if they are not
understood by those they are intended to influence. This is particularly important when those
who set the goals are not those who have to achieve them. Box 4 describes a national literacy
intervention in which the goals put in place by the national leadership were not successfully
communicated at school level.
Box 4. The importance of checking whether goals are clear
One of the goals of the national Literacy Leadership Project (200003) was to give principals
and literacy leaders the skills to work more effectively with teachers to raise the achievement
of their lowest-performing students. Facilitators were asked to “work directly with the
principal and literacy leader only with the aim of upskilling them sufficiently to work more
effectively with their staff” (p. 238)
. The aim of enhancing learning-centred leadership
was made explicit in the workshop materials. A project evaluation was conducted in 29
primary schools across the country, selected by the national facilitators as representative
of varying levels of success. When the evaluators asked facilitators, principals, literacy
leaders, and teachers to tell them whose learning needs were the focus of the project, only
the facilitators consistently nominated school leadership. Principals and literacy leaders
consistently saw the initiative directed at teacher and student learning, not their own.
The evaluation did not provide a definitive explanation for this mismatch. One possibility
is that the facilitators did not know how to tell school leaders that they were the focus.
Another is that they spent so much time working with teachers rather than leaders that the
original intention was overlooked. A third possibility is that school leaders did not study the
rationale and purpose of the initiative so did not position themselves as learners alongside
their teachers. The evaluation showed that the initiative made no difference to the reading
achievement of students.
Amongst other sources, see:
Absolum, M. (2004a). Assess to Learn Project (Project proposal submitted to the Ministry of Education).
Auckland: Evaluation Associates.
Trinick, T. (2005). Te Poutama Tau: A case study of two schools. In Findings from the New Zealand Numeracy
Development Project 2004 (pp. 103–114). Wellington: Ministry of Education.
See Latham and Locke for an accessible summary of this research and the discussion at the end of this section:
Latham, G. P., & Locke, E. A. (2006). Enhancing the benefi ts and overcoming the pitfalls of goal setting.
Organizational Dynamics, 35(4), pp. 332–340.
Thomas, G., & Tagg, A. (2005). Evidence for expectations: Findings from the numeracy project longitudinal study.
In Findings from the New Zealand Numeracy Development Project 2004. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Timperley, H. S., & Parr, J. M. (2005). Theory competition and the process of change. Journal of Educational
Change, 6, pp. 227–251.
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 109
Leadership develops the capacity to set appropriate goals
Setting appropriate goals involves more than learning how to specify targets that are objective
and measurable. Goal setting—for both teacher and student learning—is part of a cycle of
evidence-based assessment, analysis, and determination of next steps. As we will show in
Chapter 8, to do this well, leaders need considerable knowledge of subject-specific assessment,
curriculum progressions, and pedagogical strategies. It was a feature of successful projects
that leaders checked, rather than assumed, teachers’ capacity to set appropriate goals and,
where needed, provided opportunities for them to learn how to link student data to next
teaching steps
In the early stages of some New Zealand initiatives, policy makers and programme developers
have not adequately checked the capacity of the implementing agents to meet the objectives
and have consequently underestimated the amount of learning and support that teachers and
school leaders will need. In the Literacy Leadership Project, for example, few schools were able
to complete the required evidence-based assessment, goal setting, and action-research project.
The subsequent Literacy Professional Development Project
recognised the complexity of these
tasks and the need for more expert support. As a consequence, its impact on both teacher and
student learning has been much more significant.
Goal setting requires an appropriate level of difficulty to be established. If goals are seen
to be too difficult or too easy, they will not be motivating. The perceived difficulty of a goal
and the perceived capacity to meet it are inseparably linked, so what counts as difficult will
change as capacity changes. Box 5 describes how one school leader worked with her staff to
set progressively more challenging goals for student achievement.
Box 5. An assistant principal helps teachers set and achieve more challenging goals
The assistant principal in a low-decile, urban primary school worked with a university
researcher to lift levels of reading achievement. Initially, the teachers rejected the use of
national benchmarks, believing them to be unrealistic for their students. The author
“They indicated that they already knew that the students were reading below expectations for
their age. Various comments alluded to the belief that national expectations were unrealistic
for their students. For example, when the assistant principal indicated the expected reading
level after six months at school, one teacher asked in an aside, ‘Is that according to real
life?’” (p. 10).
One year later, after learning to use classroom data to improve their teaching, the staff
involved were setting national benchmarks as their goal and routinely plotting their
students’ reading data against them. One teacher explained, “I think you have got to have
expectations and you have to have something to aim for. I guess it comes down to what the
vision is, where we collectively want the kids to be as well” (p. 16).
Descriptions of such work are available in:
Absolum (2004a), op. cit.
Absolum, M. (2004b). ATOL programme 2004 (report prepared for company purposes only). Auckland:
Evaluation Associates Ltd.
Fung, I. Y. Y., Townsend, M. A. R., & Parr, J. M. (2004). Teaching school children to think critically in language
arts: How and why? Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference (16–18
September), UMIST, Manchester, UK. Retrieved from:
Parr, J., Timperley, H., Reddish, P., Jesson, R., & Adams, R. (2006). Literacy Professional Development Project:
Identifying effective teaching and professional development practices for enhanced student learning. Milestone
5 (Final report). Wellington: Learning Media.
Phillips, G., McNaughton, S., & MacDonald, S. (2001). Picking up the pace: Effective literacy interventions for
accelerated progress over the transition into decile one schools (Final Report). Wellington, NZ: Ministry of
Education. Retrieved from:
Parr, Timperley, Reddish, Jesson, & Adams (2006), op. cit.
Timperley, H. S. (2005b). Instructional leadership challenges: The case of using student achievement information
for instructional improvement. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 4, pp. 3–22.
110 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
Explaining the power of goal setting
Goal setting is a powerful leadership tool, and since the studies discussed above were not
designed as studies of leadership (let alone goal setting), it is important that we help readers
understand how and why it is effective.
There is a long history of empirical research on goal setting, recently summarised in an easily
accessible form by two of the leading theorists (see Figure 17). The following discussion is
based on their recent paper
Figure 17. How does goal setting work?
Goal setting works by creating a discrepancy between the current situation and a desired
future state. For people committed to a goal, this discrepancy is experienced as constructive
discontent that motivates persistent, goal-relevant behaviour. Goals focus attention and lead
to more determined and sustained effort than would otherwise be the case. For example, a
teachers goal is to have 80% of her students achieving at or above age-appropriate levels in
reading comprehension by the end of the year. As only 50% do so at present, she is motivated
to systematically record and review their performance and to seek more successful ways of
Goals are only motivating, however, if the three conditions listed in the left-hand box in
Figure 17 are met:
1. Teachers, parents, or students feel they have the capacity to meet the goals: either they
believe their current resources are sufficient for the purpose or they are confident they will
be given the additional expertise and support they need.
2. People are committed to the goals. This requires first of all that they understand and
value them. As long as this is the case, it does not matter whether they participate in the
actual goal-setting process. New Zealand research on teacher professional development in
literacy does, however, draw attention to the effectiveness of goals that are co-constructed
and based on a joint analysis of problems
. This is probably because the shared process
enhances teachers’ understanding of what it will take to achieve the goals at the same time
as it builds their capacity and confidence.
3. The goals are specific and unambiguous. Specificity makes it possible to assess progress
and adjust one’s practice accordingly. Self-regulation is impossible if the goaland,
therefore, progress towards the goalis unclear.
Goal setting enhances performance and learning. It is also psychologically beneficial in that,
by bringing clarity of purpose, it no longer seems that everything is equally important and
Latham & Locke (2006), op. cit.
Parr, Timperley, Reddish, Jesson, & Adams (2006), op. cit.
• Higher performance and
• Sense of purpose and
• Increased sense of
• Increased enjoyment of
• Create a discrepancy
between current realities
and desired future states
• Motivate persistent goal-
relevant behaviour
• Focus attention and
• Capacity to meet goals
• Commitment to specic
• Specic and
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 111
overwhelming. This sharpened focus and sense of purpose can lead to greater enjoyment of
one’s work and greater willingness to take on challenges.
There are, of course, limitations and pitfalls to be aware of. They are summarised in the
following table, together with strategies for preventing or overcoming them:
Table 7. Goal setting: common problems and how to overcome them
Problem Strategy
People lack the skills and knowledge to achieve the
Set relevant learning rather than performance
Individuals’ goals may be in conflict with others’
Set team or superordinate goals.
Failure to achieve goals is seen as a risk. Encourage and reward learning from mistakes.
Successful goal attainment can reinforce old
strategies that are inappropriate in a changing
Invite robust critique and review of goals and
strategies for reaching them.
Accountability for goal attainment can lead to
biased and inaccurate reporting.
Check validity of a small sample of reports.
Leaders model an ethical culture and show no
tolerance for deviations.
Important outcomes that are not set as goals may
be ignored.
Set more inclusive goals.
Set goals for all critical outcomes.
Inquire into goal interrelationships.
It is one thing to set good goals and gain commitment to them and another to successfully
pursue them in the face of the constant distractions of other necessary work. The section in
Chapter 2 on principals’ use of time highlights this particular challenge confronting principals
who want to take greater responsibility for leading teaching and learning. Practical advice
about how to manage the distractions, together with the problem-solving and interpersonal
skills required, will be found in Chapter 8
Dimension B: Obtaining and allocating resources aligned to
pedagogical goals
Leadership is exercised in obtaining and allocating material, intellectual, and human resources
to meet pedagogical goals. Of all the functions that come under this dimension, the most
important of all is appointment of teaching staff, since quality of teaching explains more of the
variance in student achievement than any other system variable
Leaders at all levels of the system play a vital role in working with teachers to identify and
develop appropriate teaching resources and ensuring that these resources are readily available.
For Màori-medium schools, finding resources that align pedagogically and philosophically with
valued goals is a significant challenge as there are relatively fewer teaching and assessment
resources available in te reo Màori
Practical advice about how to manage distractions in ways that do not undermine the pursuit of goals is also
found in Levin, B. (2009) How to change 5000 schools: A practical approach for leading change at every level.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Alton-Lee, A. (2004, June). Impact of teaching and schools on variance in outcomes. Retrieved October 6th,
2006, from
Rau, C. (2005). Literacy acquisition, assessment and achievement of year two tauira in total immersion in Màori
programmes, The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 8(5), pp. 404–432.
112 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
Resource availability and allocation not only impacts the quality of teaching, it has wider societal
implications via its influence on school quality, which has been shown to have a remarkable
impact on economic growth
. Yet simply increasing resources will not improve the quality of
teaching and learning
: the challenge is to strategically align resources to pedagogical goals,
not accumulate resources as an end in itself
Besides obtaining and allocating the materials and information needed for improving teaching
and learning, strategic alignment may also involve developing or recruiting the expertise to
use these effectively. Such expertise might already exist within the schoolin the staff or
students, or in the community or kura whànau. When this is the case, leadership may involve
identifying those with the particular expertise needed or selecting individuals for important
roles. For example, the principal of a decile 2 school in Manukau City asked two teachers
to share with their colleagues how they had successfully raised the achievement of five of
their students with learning and behaviour difficulties. Over the course of three one-and-a-
half-hour professional development sessions, these teachers explained how, supported by a
university-based facilitator, they had used an action-research process to examine and then
change their own practice in ways that led to significant improvements in the reading, writing,
and behaviour of these previously hard-to-teach students. The principal reported:
This exercise has reinforced a belief, long held by the senior management of this school,
that sharing of expertise within our own learning community, by staff members who
know and understand our students, is the most powerful tool in effecting change. From
my observation of the two staff members involved in the project I noted an increased
understanding of the value of cooperatively interchanging ideas and practice, an
increased ability to clearly define the outcomes they required and a subsequent growing
in confidence in their ability to move their students forward (p. 37)
When expertise is not readily available, leadership seeks it out. This is illustrated in the
vignette in Box 3. The tumuaki, on behalf of the kura whànau, sought the expertise of a
researcher to help the kura better prepare graduates to cope with the academic English they
would encounter at secondary school.
In the initiatives described in the 31 studies reviewed for this chapter, expertise often came into
schools from outside in the form of project personnel, who assumed key leadership roles. As
we examined how these external personnel and school-based leaders identified and obtained
resources aligned to the purpose of improving teaching and learning, two points emerged:
Leaders who strive to identify and obtain resources aligned to pedagogical goals:
use clear criteria that are aligned to pedagogical and philosophical purposes;
ensure sustained funding for pedagogical priorities.
Leadership uses clear criteria that are aligned to pedagogical and philosophical
Effective identification of material and human resources is not an ad hoc process. Rather, it
is guided by already-established goals and purposes. These purposes shape the development
of the criteria used to identify the necessary resources. Leadership ensures there is shared
awareness and understanding of the purpose of the resources and of the criteria that will be
used to identify or develop them. An example of clear identification of relevant expertise from
within a school is found in Figure 22 on page 136. Teachers in the school disaggregated data
so that they could see exactly which students—and, therefore, exactly which teachers—needed
Hanushek, E. A. (2005). Economic outcomes and school quality. Paris: IIEP and Brussels: IAE.
Bryk, A. S., Sebring, P. B., Kerbow, D., Rollow, S., & Easton, J. Q. (1998). Charting Chicago school reform:
Democratic localism as a lever for change. Boulder: Westview Press.
Hiranniah, N., & Mahoney, B. (2006). Within our circle of infl uence. Kairaranga, 7(Special Edition), pp. 33–
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 113
more help. The disaggregation also enabled them to identify one of their number who was
particularly successful in raising the achievement of her students. As a result, colleagues
observed her teaching, were coached by her, and actively sought her advice
In this example, the teacher expert and her colleagues knew why she was selected and
understood her resource person role. A contrasting study, of a project called Te Kauhua,
highlights how important it is that staff are aware of the criteria for selection. Te Kauhua
focused on helping teachers understand the types of teacherstudent relationships that foster
Màori achievement
. Over half the teacher-facilitators who had been seconded for two and
a half years to clusters of participating schools raised the need for greater clarity about their
roles and responsibilitiesthey were neither sure of their roles nor sure of why they had been
To meet specific goals, it may sometimes be necessary to identify and recruit individuals
with the required expertise from outside the school. The importance of clear links between
recruitment criteria and educational goals can be seen in the vignette in Box 6. The scenario
in this case is a school that has been invited to send a Màori cultural group of 24 students to
perform at an international cultural festival.
Box 6. Recruiting personnel who have the knowledge and qualities necessary for meeting
educational goals
Preparation for the performance involved implementation of an intensive Màori culture
group experience. This was combined with a carefully planned and implemented series of
interventions and activities designed to improve the students’ self-esteem and sense of agency,
which, according to standardised test results, were low. The impacts of the experience
on academic performance were also evaluated. The Pàkehà deputy principal, who had
been leading the cultural group, decided to appoint a kaiako and kaiarahi reo from a local
marae to take over this role. The deputy principal helped ensure that the culture group’s
programme was culturally appropriate by recruiting skilled Màori personnel. These people
had the knowledge and expertise to successfully prepare the group for their performance.
They could also assist in developing cultural identity and by acting as role models. As they
were not trained teachers, they were given some specific training in developing childrens
self-esteem and sense of agency.
Pre- and post-assessments of the children in the culture group showed that there were
positive, statistically significant changes in students’ self-esteem and sense of agency over the
course of the intervention. There was also a small positive effect on academic achievement.
Neither of these changes was observed in a comparison group.
Picking up the Pace
, an early literacy initiative, provides an example of how criteria for
identifying and obtaining material resources can be driven by externally facilitated changes to
current practice. Box 7 describes how these changes demanded new criteria for the allocation
and use of resources.
Timperley, H. S., & Wiseman, J. (2003). The sustainability of professional development in literacy: Part 2.
School-based factors associated with high student achievement. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Retrieved
Tuuta, M., Bradnam, L., Hynds, A., Higgins, J., & Broughton, R. (2004). Evaluation of the Te Kauhua Màori
mainstream pilot project. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
This vignette is drawn from Rubie, C. (1999). The effect of a Màori culture group experience on children’s self
esteem, locus of control and academic performance. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Auckland.
Phillips, G., McNaughton, S., & MacDonald, S. (2001). Picking up the pace: Effective literacy interventions
for accelerated progress over the transition into decile one schools (Final report). Wellington: Ministry of
Education. Retrieved from
114 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
Box 7. Pedagogically aligning resources to changing practices
A New Zealand professional development research project in literacy teaching had shown
how the traditional big book activity, involving a whole class, left low-progress children
somewhat confused. In light of this finding and international research showing that
effective teachers use a range of rich texts, Picking up the Pace facilitators worked with
teachers to change their practice. Instead of reading big books with the whole class, they
read a range of appropriate small books with small groups of students. Reading five small
books (appropriate in terms of topic, text meaning, difficulty, vocabulary, etc.) every day
as a part of a flexible, small-group Reading To programme, instead of one big book over
several days, was found to be a more helpful practice. As the children read the different
books, the teachers were able to observe the kinds of text selected and discern mismatches
between text and reader perception. The junior school leadership had to respond to these
changes, ensuring that suitable texts were available, that instructional reading happened
with a small (rather than large) group, and that there were appropriate tasks and resources
for the other groups of children.
Besides aligning pedagogically, resources need to align with philosophical purposes and
teaching programmes. Trinick studied two kura that had participated in Te Poutama Tau
in 2003 and shown gains in mathematical achievement
. This professional development
programme for Màori-medium teachers of numeracy is based around what is known as the
Number Framework. Developed specifically for the New Zealand context, the programme
requires individual schools to opt in. The senior staff of the kura agreed that their success with
Te Poutama Tau was partly because the teaching and learning philosophy behind it aligned
well with the school’s commitment to cooperative learning. Cooperative learning approaches
also align well with the philosophy behind Te Aho Matua
Timely availability is one aspect of resource alignment. Te reo Màori versions of key resource
materials (such as the diagnostic interview and teacher booklets) were developed as part of the
Te Poutama Tau programme but, as Christensen notes, facilitators were working with Màori-
medium teachers well before these became available
Notwithstanding the timeliness issue, Te Poutama Tau resources have helped Màori-medium
teachers understand the stages by which students typically develop understanding of number,
and this in turn has helped them cater more effectively for the individual learning needs of
their students
. Te Poutama Tau represents a significant step forward in terms of aligning
pedagogy and resources to Màori educational philosophy and aspirations.
In English-medium schools, the commitment of leaders is a major determinant of the priority
given to purchasing or developing resources for Màori-medium teaching. In a study of three
schools, Clark
found little commitment on the part of senior leadership to assessing and
reporting the te reo Màori achievements of students from Màori-medium programmes. Màori-
medium teachers from two of the schools described how they fitted bilingual outcomes into the
English-medium report template as best they could. In one, teachers had to attach a separate
te reo Màori report to the standard report. In these schools, resources for assessing and
reporting were not aligned to important pedagogical and cultural goals.
Trinick, T. (2005). Te Poutama Tau: A case study of two schools. In Findings from the New Zealand Numeracy
Development Project 2004. Wellington: Ministry of Education, pp. 103–114.
Te Aho Matua is a philosophy specifi cally developed for kura kaupapa Màori that describes principles for
operation and teaching. It has a focus on cooperative learning.
Christensen, I. (2003). An evaluation of Te Poutama Tau 2002: Exploring issues in mathematics education.
Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Clark, S. M. (2003). Reporting to parents in Màori bilingual units. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 115
In an evaluation
of the use of commercially available literacy packages in English- and Màori-
medium classrooms, teachers were asked a series of interview questions designed to find out
how well they could match the packages with the needs of their students. The authors write:
The conclusion with respect to obtaining a match between needs of students and features
of the package is that this was often problematic from the outset. Not all schools, by any
means, were clear about what the package they were selecting had to offer or how this
related to the needs of their students. Schools were prepared to rate the package highly in
terms of meeting needs of their students but were generally unable to specify the way in
which the package helped them to cater for the needs of target groups (p. 35).
The evaluators’ report includes a detailed, hypothetical case of how a deputy principal might
lead a series of evidence-based discussions about the literacy learning needs of their students,
selection of a resource to match those needs, and ongoing evaluation of its impact on student
Leadership ensures sustained funding for pedagogical priorities
There is a conspicuous shortage of New Zealand research on how school leaders identify and
obtain resources in the everyday business of leading a school. Most of the studies from which
we have derived leadership dimensions involve improvement projects, but resources made
available during the ‘hothouse’ phase of an intervention will not necessarily be available on
an ongoing basis from regular school budgets
. For this reason, concern is often expressed
during improvement projects that, to sustain new practices and gains in student outcomes,
continued access to resources is required. Provision of these resources is a bottom line
but meeting it can be problematic when the extra funds associated with a project run out and
continued work must be funded from the regular school budget
The McDowall et al. study provides evidence about how school leadership might address
concerns about the ongoing funding of programmes that are initially partly externally
. This study, described in Box 8, focused on decisions relating to Reading Recovery,
an early intervention for students making limited progress in reading and writing after their
first year at school.
Box 8. Ensuring that there is sufficient funding for pedagogically aligned resources
The number of Reading Recovery places available in a school is dependent on hours provided
by the Ministry of Education specifically for the purpose and on what the school allocates
from its operations grant and other discretionary funding. Schools are expected to at least
match the hours provided by the Ministry, so the extent to which they meet the need for
Reading Recovery places is partly dependent on their priorities for discretionary funding.
In all but one of the case study schools, the school contribution was greater—sometimes
considerably greater—than the hours provided by the Ministry. Schools can also use
discretionary funding to cater for unexpected placements or to provide time for Reading
Recovery teachers to carry out extra activities such as monitoring discontinued students.
Some effective Reading Recovery schools have taken up this option. Their leaders realised
that successful implementation of Reading Recovery necessitated adjustments to funding,
Parr, J., Aikman, M., Irving, E., & Glasswell, K. (2004). An evaluation of the use and integration of readymade
commercial literacy packages into classroom programmes (Final report). Wellington: Ministry of Education.
McLaughlin, M. W., & Mitra, D. (2001). Theory-based change and change-based theory: Going deeper, going
broader. Journal of Educational Change, 2(4), pp. 301–323.
McDowall, S., Boyd, S., Hodgen, E., & Vliet, T. V. (2005). Reading Recovery in New Zealand: Uptake,
implementation, and outcomes, especially in relation to Mäori and Pasifi ka students. Wellington: New Zealand
Council for Educational Research.
116 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
often at the expense of other things. Leaders face a delicate juggling act when deciding how
to use their schools discretionary funding
Contestable funding is another possible avenue for leaders wanting to access ongoing material
and human resources for priority areas, but there may be considerable opportunity costs
associated with such funding. A report prepared for the Ministry of Education highlights
principals’ concerns:
Box 9. Opportunity costs in relation to compliance requirements associated with resourcing
Fifty school principals and board of trustees members from 29 schools were interviewed
about their schools’ experiences of compliance requirements. Fourteen principals said that
they found the compliance and reporting associated with contestable resourcing onerous and
time-consuming, particularly with respect to teacher and teacher aide hours and funding.
Eight principals were concerned about the amount of time it took to prepare funding
applications and to meet compliance and reporting requirements for successful applications.
Principals and trustees also said they faced considerable human and other costs meeting
compliance requirements such as those related to electrical safety (e.g., checking power
) and road safety (e.g., supervisor-to-student ratio when crossing roads)
In New Zealand’s largely self-managing environment, strategic resourcing is a key responsibility
of school leadership, yet there are few resources to help school leaders learn how to use the
resources they have to more effectively support the improvement of teaching and learning
Dimension C: Creating educationally powerful connections
Leadership through the creation of educationally powerful connections designed to improve
teaching and learning was apparent in many of the 31 studies in our analysis. Connections
between individuals, organisations, and cultures can contribute to enhanced student
achievement by ensuring a closer pedagogical and philosophical match between what happens
at home and at school. Pedagogical match is also enhanced when schools provide continuity
of content and teaching approach for students as they move from one programme or class to
While relationships are important in all the dimensions identified in this chapter, this is
particularly the case when it comes to creating connections and continuity. Effective relationships
both reflect and build shared understandings and goal commitments. They can also lead to
greater knowledge of and respect for individual and cultural identities. In this discussion,
however, our emphasis is adult relationships, collaborations, and partnerships that are focused
on the achievement and well-being of students
. As Fullan notes, “unless the right things are
being focused on, collaborative relationships may end up being powerfully wrong
Our analysis shows that leaders create educationally powerful connections when they:
establish continuities between student identities and school practices;
develop continuities and coherence across teaching programmes;
ensure effective transitions across educational settings.
ibid., pp. xv–xvi.
Ministry of Education internal memo (12 March 2007), a summary of issues raised by principals and principal
bodies regarding electrical testing in schools.
Malone, K. (2006). Project report: Reducing compliance; increasing trust. A report prepared for Education
Management Policy, Ministry of Education and Kingston Associates.
A starting point for developing such New Zealand resources could be Karen Hawley Miles and Stephen Franks’
forthcoming book, The strategic school: Making the most of people, time and money. Thousand Oaks, California:
Corwin Press.
Timperley, H., & Robinson, V. (2002). Partnership: Focusing the relationship on the task of school improvement.
Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. p. 67.
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 117
Leadership establishes continuities between student identities and school
Te Kotahitanga
is an initiative to increase the achievement of Màori students in English-
medium secondary schools. The major strategy involves building relationships between
individuals and groups, establishing the kinds of connections and continuities that have been
shown to make a difference to the outcomes of Màori students. Màori students can experience
major discontinuities between the cultural practices encountered in the classroom and their
culturally located identities
. Te Kotahitanga seeks to address this problem by developing
learning–teaching relationships that recognise and affirm Màori students’ identities.
Leadership is needed from researchers and professional developers, principals, and boards
of trustees (among others) to facilitate such relationships and promote a common vision of
educational excellence for Màori. Bishop et al.
identify connectedness as fundamental. This
requires “teachers who are committed to and inextricably connected to their students and
the community” (p. 25), plus complementary school and home aspirations. Recent findings
appear to indicate that Màori students whose maths teachers have undergone Te Kotahitanga
training achieve more highly than those whose teachers have not
. Even more important is
the evidence that, for the period 200506, the level 1 NCEA results of participating schools
improved significantly more than those of a comparison group of schools
Results from the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) also show that learning
experiences that connect with their cultural knowledge give Màori students opportunities to
achieve across a range of learning areas. For example, Màori achieve significantly better than
kehà in tasks that involve Màori contexts
provides a vivid example of the discontinuities that can occur for Pasifika students
when teachers have not developed their knowledge, skills, and understandings and, for this
reason, cannot positively mediate relationships between Pasifika students and their non-Pasifika
peers. Two groups of Pasifika students involved in her doctoral research described what often
happened when they asked questions about parts of lessons that they didn’t understand:
Group 1 students
Researcher: What makes you feel they [classmates] look down on you?
Sina: We keep on asking questions and they just go ‘Ugh. I feel like slapping them.
Tavita: It’s true. You feel like standing up and bop them.
Researcher: When they go ‘Ugh, do the teachers do anything about that?
Sina: No.
Elena: No, they [the teachers] start laughing at us.
Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T., Teddy, L., & Clapham, S. (2006). Te Kotahitanga phase 3:
Whànaungatanga: Establishing a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations in mainstream secondary
school classrooms. Wellington: Ministry of Education Research Division and Poutama Pounamu Research and
Development Centre.
Such discontinuities confl ict with the broad goal of education ‘enabling Màori to live as Màori’. See Durie,
M. (2001, February), A framework for considering Màori educational advancement. Opening Address, Hui
Taumata Màtauranga, Turangi.
Bishop, Berryman, Cavanagh, Teddy, & Clapham (2006), op. cit.
Memo from NZQA Senior Statistical Analyst to Ministry of Education Chief Education Advisor 29 July, 2007.
Crooks, T., & Flockton, L. (2006). Social studies: Assessment results 2005. National Education Monitoring
Report. Dunedin: Educational Assessment Research Unit.
Nakhid, C. (2003). Comparing Pasifi ka students’ perceptions of their schooling with the perceptions of non-
Pasifi ka teachers using the ‘mediated dialogue’ as a research methodology. New Zealand Journal of Educational
Studies, 38(2), pp. 220–221.
118 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
Group 2 students
Researcher: What do you do when the teachers laugh?
Ripeka: Laugh with them. You laugh it off but you’re really angry.
Mele: Then it just makes you just forget about asking the question in the first place.
Ripeka: And never again
Mele: Yeah.
Mele: And there’s always a time when you ask the teacher, and the teacher like
totally ignores you and then you turn around and ask someone else, someone
who you think might know in the class, then you get in trouble for talking in
the first place but they didnt answer your question.
Nakhid explains how experiences of this kind, which stem from disconnection between their
Pasifika identities and school practices, disadvantage students by discouraging them from
participating in the classroom. In their eyes, teachers condone the negative behaviour of their
non-Pasifika classmates by not intervening or preventing it.
Leadership develops continuities and coherence across teaching programmes
A coherent teaching programme is guided by a common set of principles and key ideas. These
drive strategies for teaching and assessment and inform policies and procedures (relating, for
example, to staff recruitment, evaluation, and professional development) that impinge on the
teaching programme. High-quality programmes have high-quality content and a high degree
of coherence.
While none of the New Zealand studies attempted to measure programme coherence, there were
many leadership activities that had an impact on coherence. For example, in some studies,
teachers at a particular year level learned a common approach to teaching and assessing
junior school reading
or writing
. One study showed that, by permitting staff to opt out of
a common pedagogical approach, leaders may put student achievement at risk
An investigation into the sustainability of the gains from an intensive professional development
course on literacy acquisition shows the importance of continuity and coherence across a
teaching programme. The professional development involved the literacy leaders and teachers
of year 1 classes from seven schools. The two schools with the highest achievement in year
3 (schools F and G in Table 8) were the only schools where participating teachers attended
regularly scheduled meetings at which benchmarked achievement data, disaggregated by level,
were available for discussion
. In these two schools, the principal had explicitly assigned to the
literacy leader responsibility for ensuring that implementation across classes was consistent.
Phillips, G., McNaughton, S., & MacDonald, S. (2001). Picking up the pace: Effective literacy interventions for
accelerated progress over the transition into decile one schools (Final report). Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Retrieved from
Parr, J., Timperley, H., Reddish, P., Jesson, R., & Adams, R. (2006). Literacy professional development project:
Identifying effective teaching and professional development practices for enhanced student learning. Milestone
5 (Final Report). Wellington: Learning Media.
Timperley, H. S. (2005a). Distributed leadership: Developing theory from practice. Journal of Curriculum
Studies, 37(4), pp. 395–420.
The Early Childhood Primary Link (ECPL) was developed and delivered by Dr Gwenneth Phillips of the Child
Literacy Foundation.
School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration 119
Table 8. Analysis of meetings
Achievement data discussed
Regularity of
Length of
data for year
data for class
A Not scheduled N. A. N. A. N. A. One meeting
B Irregularly 1 hour Yes No Irregularly
C Not scheduled N. A. N. A. N. A. Irregularly (first year
D One in year 2 1 hour Yes No Not scheduled
(second year
2030 mins Second year
No Irregularly (first year
FRegularly (twice
per term)
30 mins Yes Yes Regularly (same
G Regularly (once
per term)
1 hour Yes Yes Regularly (same
Leadership ensures effective transitions across educational settings
Leaders create educationally powerful connections by ensuring that learners are able to
make effective transitions from one educational setting to another. An aim of the Picking up
the Pace early literacy initiative was to promote continuity in literacy development between
early childhood centres and primary schools. In this way, it was hoped to make better use of
children’s pre-school learning when they entered primary school. Early childhood teachers
typically said they knew a little about the teaching of reading and writing at school, but the
majority of primary teachers said they knew very little about reading and writing in early
childhood centres. Both thought it would be useful to know more about childrens development
and about the teaching and learning that was going on in the other setting.
In this case, effective transitions were achieved in two ways. The first involved a focus on
literacy and language activities in early childhood centres. The second involved changing
primary school teachers’ beliefs about literacy acquisition during the first year of school. A
consequence of the programme was that teachers became more aware of the strengths children
brought with them when they started school. One teacher explained:
I realise that they actually know more about book knowledge than I was aware of before,
like where a book starts and ends, all that sort of thing. I wasn’t really focusing on that
before, but now after doing the course, I can see that the kids come in with that knowledge
already, you don’t need to teach it.
Another consequence was that the children made substantial gains in literacy by the end of
the first year at school.
Effective transitions are promoted, not only by ensuring that teachers know more about
learners and the teaching they have experienced, but also by using culturally valued practices.
Box 10 illustrates how Te Poutama Tau leaders drew on culturally valued social processes to
mooth the transition from a kòhanga reo to a Màori-medium school.
Timperley, H. S., & Wiseman, J. (2003). The sustainability of professional development in literacy: Part 2.
School-based factors associated with high student achievement. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Retrieved
from, p. 80.
Phillips, McNaughton, & MacDonald (2001), op. cit., p. 118.
120 School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration
Box 10. Using culturally valued processes to support transitions
The principal and senior staff of a Màori-medium primary school helped prepare for the
transition of children from the local kòhanga reo by visiting it. In this way, they became
kanohi kitea (‘seen faces’). Cultural processes were an important element i