Successful schools, successful leaders

The Australian case

Authored by: David Gurr

Routledge International Handbook of Teacher and School Development

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  June  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415669702
eBook ISBN: 9780203815564
Adobe ISBN: 9781136715976


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In many countries there seems to be an unprecedented interest in school performance. In the USA, for example, not only does Newsweek continue to list annually the top thousand schools, but in 2010 the Los Angeles Times published the performance of teachers for the first time. Meanwhile, in the same year, the performance of all schools in Australia was publicly reported via the publication of student performance in national literacy and numeracy testing for all schools (available at: These examples indicate that the focus on school performance, and by implication on successful schools, can now in many countries be described as unrelenting. Fortunately, the international educational research community has, in some respects, anticipated this with a focus on understanding successful school leadership through literature reviews (e.g. Leithwood and Riehl 2005; Leithwood et al. 2004), national (e.g. Day et al. 2010; Louis et al. 2010) and cross-national research projects (e.g. the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP)). Begun in 2002, the ISSPP is perhaps the largest and most sustained study of successful school leadership. It involves 14 countries, and has collected more than 80 case studies, and produced two books (Leithwood and Day 2007a; Møller and Fuglestad 2006), more than seven additional book chapters, three special journal issues (Journal of Educational Administration, 43(6), 2005; 47(6), 2009; International Studies in Educational Administration, 35(3), 2007), and more than 70 refereed journal papers. The ISSPP includes a significant Australian component, including the development of a leadership model (see Figure 36.1). Figure 36.1 Simplified Australian model of successful school leadership

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