June 2015

Pioneering research on effective schools more than thirty-five years ago revealed that school leadership is second only to teachers in its impact on student achievement. Underscoring this research, a new study from AISR found that building school administrators’ leadership capacity has played a critical role in the turnaround of a struggling urban district.

Six years ago, Tennessee’s Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) were on the brink of state takeover and suffered from low academic performance and significant achievement gaps. A number of the district’s schools failed to meet No Child Left Behind performance targets. While shortcomings still exist today, MNPS has experienced gains in academic achievement across all subject areas, and the district’s graduation rate is on the rise.

AISR's latest research report, Leading by Example: Principal Leadership Institutes as a Driver for Change in Metro Nashville Public Schools, examines Nashville principals’ leadership development through the twice-yearly Principal Leadership Institutes (PLIs) conducted for 140 school principals and central office leaders in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) over two to three days beginning in 2009.

Commissioned by MNPS, the findings suggest that the PLIs have had a significant impact over time on the development of principals as the transformational leaders who have served as the cornerstone in the district’s effort to improve teaching and learning.