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Nebraska Leadership Initiative

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The Nebraska Council of School Administrators (NCSA) is partnering with Nebraska Educational Service Units and the Nebraska Department of Education to offer this professional development opportunity for Nebraska school districts.  This initiative is intended for superintendents, principals and teacher/staff leaders and promotes professional development based upon best practice and research related to school district leadership, school improvement, and leading in an effective school.  The overall goal is to improve the skill sets of school administrators, allowing them to understand and perform the important work in leading an effective school, and most importantly, to improve opportunities for learning for students.

Our effective school research synthesis allows us to suggest the importance of leadership and change in all aspects of the successful operation of an effective school or district.  In addition, the successful leader must utilize leadership and change strategies appropriately while addressing the four research-based components of: Governance for Learning, Culture for Learning, Instructional Leadership for Learning, and Resources for Learning.  These four main resources that demonstrated consistency in research findings and used to determine the content for this initiative were derived from: Lezotte; McRel; National Study of School Evaluation, AdvancED; and Waters and Marzano.

Plans for implementation include statewide in-depth training to begin during the 2008-09 school year on the aforementioned four modules plus "Leadership and Change".  The training will be scheduled at sites throughout the state and facilitated by ESU trained personnel.  This professional development opportunity is designed to allow administrators and staff leaders to grow personally and professionally and improve leadership in schools.  Special thanks to Jan Hoegh -- Nebraska Department of Education, and Dr. Toby Boss -- Educational Service Unit 6 for their time, dedication and commitment to make this initiative successful.

Dr. Dan Ernst
NCSA Associate Executive Director

The Research Base

The components of the Nebraska Leadership Initiative (NLI) were derived from a review of current research and literature.  The four main resources used to drive the content were as follows with the appropriate citation:

Lezotte, L. (1991). Correlates of effective schools: The first and second
 Okemos, MI: Effective Schools Products. Retrieved
       December 31, 2007, from

Lezotte lists the following as the correlates:

  • Safe and orderly environment
  • Climate of high expectations for success
  • Instructional leadership
  • Clear and focused mission
  • Opportunity to learn and time on task
  • Frequent monitoring of student progress
  • Home-school relations

Waters and Marzano, (2006). School District Leadership that Works: The
       Effect of Superintendent Leadership on Student Achievement.
       Working Paper) McREL, Denver, CO.

The research by Waters and Marzano indicate a correlation between five district level responsibilities and student academic achievement.

The five components and the corresponding effect sizes are as follows:

The goal setting process .24
Non-negotiable goals for achievement and instruction .33
Board alignment with and support of district goals .29
Monitoring the goals for achievement/instruction .27
Use of resources to support the goals for achievement/instruction .26

National Study of School Evaluation (2007) Technical guide to school and
       district factors impacting student learning.
AdvancED R & D Division,
       Schaumberg, IL

The National Study of School Evaluation (NSSE) conducted an analysis of the research to determine factors that contribute to and conditions that influence student achievement within the scope of the school and school system.  NSSE indentified three core tasks and five organizational conditions for improving school systems.  They are as follows:

Three Core Tasks:

  • Ensure Desired Results
  • Improve Teaching and Learning
  • Foster a Culture for Improvement

The Five Organizational Conditions:

  • Quality Teachers
  • Effective Leadership
  • Quality Information
  • Policies and Practices that Foster and Sustain Improvement
  • Resources and Support Systems to Sustain Improvement

Marzano, R.J. (2003) What works in schools: Translating research into
Alexandria, VA.  Association for Supervision and Curriculum

The researcher found five school level factors have an impact on student achievement.  The meta- analysis concluded that there are five school level factors that can improve student achievement:

  • Guaranteed and viable curriculum
  • Challenging goals and effective feedback
  • Parent and community involvement
  • Safe and orderly environment
  • Collegiality and professionalism

From the analysis of this research, the following components of leading an effective school were derived:

Governance for Learning:

  • Setting goals
  • Effective Planning
  • Effective Policies and Practices
  • Monitoring
  • Effective Leadership

Culture for Learning:

  • Mission/Vision
  • School Climate
  • Expectations
  • Relationships

Instructional Leadership for Learning

  • Use of data
  • Curriculum, instruction, and assessment

Resources for Learning

  • Allocation and support
  • Professional development

Supplemental literature was used to form the content of each component and is listed in a complete bibliography.


Bernhardt, V. (1998).  Data analysis for comprehensive schoolwide
Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, Inc.

Bennis, W. (1989).  On becoming a leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley

Buckingham, M., & Coffman, C. (1999).  First, break all the rules: What the
      world’s great managers do differently.
New York: Simon and Schuster.

Dufour, R., Dufour, R., Eaker, R., & Karhanek, G. (2004)  Whatever it
      takes: How a professional learning community responds when kids
      don’t learn.
Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Dufour, R., Dufour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006)  Learning by doing: A
      handbook for professional learning communities at work.
      IN: Solution Tree.

Dufour, R., & Eaker, R. (1998).  Professional learning communities at work:
      Best practices for enhancing student achievement.
      IN: Solution Tree.

Fullan, , M. (1993).  Change forces: Probing the depths of educational
London: Falmer Press.

Guskey, T. R., (2000).  Evaluating Professional Development. Thousand
      Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.

Holcomb, E. (1999).  Getting excited about data: how to combine people,
      passion, and proof.
Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.

Jenkins, L., (2005).  Permission to forget: and nine other root causes of
      America’s frustration with education.
Milwaukee, WI. ASQ Quality

Kotter, J. (1996).  Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School

Lezotte, L. (1991).  Correlates of effective schools: The first and second
 Okemos, MI: Effective Schools Products. Retrieved
      December 31, 2007, from

Marzano, R.J. (2003).  What works in schools: Translating research into
Alexandria, VA.  Association for Supervision and Curriculum

Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D., & Pollack, J. (2001).  Classroom instruction
      that works: Research based strategies for increasing student
Alexandria, VA.  Association for Supervision and
      Curriculum Development.

Marzano, R.J., Waters, T, & McNulty, B.  (2004).  School leadership that
      works: From research to results.
Alexandria, VA.  Association for
      Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McEwan, E.K. (2003).  Seven steps to effective instructional leadership.
      Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

National Study of School Evaluation (2007) Technical guide to school
      and district factors impacting student learning. AdvancED R & D
      Division, Schaumberg, IL

Reeves, D.B. (2006).  The learning leader: How to focus school
      improvement for better results.
Alexandria, VA.  Association
      for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Waters and  Marzano, (2006).  School District Leadership that Works:
      The Effect of Superintendent Leadership on Student Achievement.

      (A Working Paper) McREL, Denver, CO.

Waters, T, Marzano, R.J., & McNulty, B. (2003).  Balanced leadership:
      what 30 years of research tells us about the effect of leadership on
      student achievement.
Aurora, CO: McREL.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998).  Understanding by design. Alexandria,
      VA.  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Zmuda, A., Kuklis, R., & Kline, E. (2004).  Transforming schools: creating
      a culture of continuous improvement.
Alexandria, VA.  Association for
      Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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