After the quality of a school’s teachers, the quality of a school’s leaders is the most influential school-based factor affecting student learning. Moreover, research has found that leadership impacts student achievement the most in academic settings serving students who traditionally have not done well in school.
In an effort to provide high-quality K-12 education options, particularly for the many students across the country who attend low-performing schools, governors and other state policymakers are looking to alternative approaches, such as charter schools, to maximize their investments in public education. Forty states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow for fiscally independent, tuition-free charter schools that operate under a performance contract. Today, more than 1.2 million students attend the more than 4,300 charter schools established since the first state charter law was adopted in 1991.
As the number of students attending charter schools continues to rise, state leaders have a growing interest in ensuring that this education sector is well-equipped to meet the goals of improving student achievement, especially for low-income and minority families who have been underserved by the traditional education system. Without strong leaders—namely school directors and members of the school’s board of directors—charter schools will not be well-positioned to meet their promise of raising student achievement. Strong charter school leaders are necessary to establish and achieve a clear school mission; to recruit, develop, and retain effective educators; and to provide teachers the leadership support they need to deliver high-quality instruction.