Leadership Sims: Leader Development & Pandemic Learning Loss

April 22, 2021

By Danielle Miller

In almost every aspect of society, leadership is critical: from the healthcare sector to the corporate sector, to the leaders in your culture, and, of course, this includes the leaders in our schools. The Wallace Foundation recently released a new study, titled “How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research,” that depicted just how critical the leaders in your schools are. Jason A. Grissom of Vanderbilt University, Anna J. Egalite of North Carolina State University, and Constance A. Lindsay of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted two decades of research to find the role of effective principals in schools was understated and “have a significant impact on student achievement, teacher satisfaction, retention, student attendance, and reductions in exclusionary discipline” (Grissom et al.).

The research also looks at the demographics of these leaders in principal positions. The research concluded that many positions are predominantly filled with women, and the functions of leadership positions have struggled to keep up amid the shift in racial and ethnic demographics among students in schools. This research suggests that the race and ethnicity of the principal may play a role in student outcomes and teacher retention. Another report by Grissom, titled School Principal Race and the Hiring and Retention of Racially Diverse Teachers, proves this point. Having an ethnically diverse principal increases ethnic diversity among teachers by 5-7 percent and reduces teacher turnover. “Increases in Black teacher hiring and reductions in turnover mean that a change from a White to a Black principal increases the fraction of Black teachers working in a school by about 3 percentage points, on average, increasing exposure of students to Black teachers. Further evidence suggests that assignment to a Black teacher increases the math achievement of Black students.” (Bartanen and Grissom). 

If principals are proven to have the second-largest impact on student achievement, what can we do to set them up for success? “Indeed, given not just the magnitude but the scope of principal effects, which are felt across a potentially large student body and faculty in a school, it is difficult to envision an investment with a higher ceiling on its potential return than a successful effort to improve principal leadership.”(Grissom et al.). 

The SchoolSims library of simulations for school leaders has been shown to assist in the development of diverse, successful principals who are knowledgeable about teaching, individuals, and organizations. The SchoolSims equity simulations prepare all principals to better support equity in education. The Exploring Beneath the Surface simulation, for example, places you in charge of ensuring equal learning opportunities for students of color while also addressing your own and others’ prejudices and framing your message about equality. Other titles such as Difficult Conversations with a Novice Teacher, Cultural Competency, and Student Support (Transgender) can help current and aspiring principals become skilled in dealing with authentic challenges before the actual situations occur, thus providing experiences for school leaders to tap into when needed.

Bartanen, Brendan, and Jason Grissom. “School Principal Race and the Hiring and Retention of Racially Diverse Teachers.”

Grissom, Jason A., et al. “How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research.” The Wallace Foundation, Feb. 2021, www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/How-Principals-Affect-Students-and-Schools.pdf.