Searching for a Super Superintendent: Effect on Student Achievement

Over the past three years my activities on the Board have become focused on monitoring and supporting accelerated academic progress for our students.  The Rock Hill 3 Board voted unanimously in fall 2012 that increasing academic progress must be our primary goal.  The Board on September 23 adopted five student measures we will monitor this school year to determine our progress in academics.

With the resignation of Dr. Moody working with my fellow members in selecting a new superintendent has merged with my focus to support higher achievement for all our students.  I have been seeking research on what successful superintendents do to bring about increased academic performance by his/her students.  One of the best I have read so far is a paper by Robert Marzano, who has written a great deal student achievement, along with J. T. Waters.   These writers took 27 research publications concerning to what degree superintendents affect achievement of students and did what is called a meta-analysis to identify common factors among the studies.  Here is briefly what they found.

Finding 1: Superintendents have a strong impact on the progress or not of students in their districts.

Finding 2: Good superintendents focus on specific goals for their districts in 5 ways.

  1.  They involve relevant stakeholders, district office staff, principals, and board members in setting goals.
  2. This collaboration produces nonnegotiable goals in student achievement and classroom instruction which all staff members must act upon.  Research based instruction is to be used to meet these goals.
  3. In districts with higher achievement the School Boards are supportive of the nonnegotiable goals set for achievement and instruction.  They make sure that resources for accomplishing these goals are provided.
  4. Effective superintendents continually monitor district progress and instructional goals.
  5. Successful superintendents make sure that resources are allocated to accomplish the district’s goals.  This can mean dropping initiatives that do not contribute directly to student growth.

Finding 3.  Length of stay by superintendent is positively related to student achievement.

Finding 4.  A seeming contradictory finding the authors called “defined autonomy”.  An increase in  building autonomy produced greater student growth but something called “site based management” did not.  The writers concluded that setting clear inflexible goals for learning and instruction yet allowing school leaders to have flexibility in how they met the goals was an  effective technique.  Allowing flexibility in setting goals did not bring consistent progress.

As we continue to meet with our chosen research firm I will be influenced in my discussion by findings such as these.  As always the opinions I express here are my own and not necessarily those of the whole board.   I welcome your comments my email is   

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