(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) The Illinois Education Research Council (IERC) at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has received a two-year, $221,000 grant from the Joyce Foundation of Chicago to conduct a comprehensive four-part study of principals in Illinois. The principal investigator is IERC Executive Director Kathleen Sullivan Brown and the co-investigator is Brad White, senior researcher for the IERC.
Their research will focus on the academic backgrounds and career paths of public school principals in Illinois; estimates of principal effects, and the characteristics associated with successful school leaders in various school contexts; the roles that principals play in managing teacher talent and improving teacher quality; and school administrators' attrition and retention patterns. "School principal quality has catapulted into prominence in the education policy arena as states strive to improve student achievement," Brown explained. "Researchers in the field of educational administration have been coordinating their efforts to document what is known about successful school leadership and what questions remain unanswered, particularly about the role of school leadership in influencing student achievement.
"Some researchers rank school leadership practices second only to teacher quality in terms of impact on student learning, and additional studies have indicated that principal quality is especially important in the most disadvantaged schools." Brown said the state of Illinois has made great strides recently in collecting and examining data on the qualifications of its education workforce. Beginning in 2007, Illinois convened a School Leadership Task Force, she said, which has issued a series of recommendations to improve preparation of school administrators. "Institutions of higher education will soon be implementing these recommendations to strengthen the preparation of principals and to improve the administrative certification process," Brown said.
The IERC was established in 2000 to provide Illinois with education research to support P-20 education policy making and program development. The IERC undertakes independent research and policy analysis, often in collaboration with other researchers, which informs and strengthens Illinois' commitment to providing a seamless system of educational opportunities for its citizens.
Stephen Hansen, associate provost for research and dean of the SIUE Graduate School, said that the Joyce Foundation grant represents a significant opportunity for the IERC. "The Joyce Foundation is a major sponsor of important policy research in the state and in the United States," Hansen said. "This foundation has provided significant funding of school reform in Illinois, in improving teacher quality, and in supporting innovative projects.
"SIUE is extremely pleased that the IERC received this prestigious funding, and we anticipate that this research study will make a singular contribution to state education policy in the future."
The state Board of Education has also been awarded a major federal grant to establish a comprehensive longitudinal data system, Brown pointed out. Statewide efforts are under way in promoting teacher induction and mentoring, and in identifying the pool of teachers and administrators ready to undertake quality early childhood education. "These efforts demonstrate the state's desire to build a connected system of state databases, while making educational decisions based on quality data," Brown said. "The IERC's research reinforces these efforts with additional information and analysis of the education workforce, specifically school administrators."