Why Instructional Leadership Standards Matter

Today’s principals have an overwhelming portfolio of responsibilities, and far too little support. In addition to setting the school vision, interpreting and implementing policy, managing schedules, budgets, community and family relationships, student safety, and a slew of other organizational tasks, principals are also expected to excel as “instructional leaders,” providing feedback and coaching to teachers on their practice, connecting the instructional program to curricular resources, and using data to inform professional learning for teachers. 

But many principals are not trained to be experts in all of these areas. Principal evaluation and support systems that focus on instructional leadership can be an avenue for providing critical feedback and support, if these systems include standards that provide clarity on principal roles and responsibilities, and guide supervisors in how best to support principal growth in this area. 

Through this research, we found that states are including the assessment of instructional leadership skills and behaviors in principal evaluation systems—such as the ability to oversee the alignment of curriculum to state academic standards and ensure that professional development enhances the practice of staff members—but there is variation in how they are defining instructional leadership and how they are supporting implementation.