Instructional Leadership Tied to Student Success

How would you spend $8 billion to support Alberta’s learners aged 5 to 18? 

That is the task superintendent of schools from across the province are working on right now to meet Alberta Education’s May 31 budget submission deadline for school authorities. Often shaped after extensive stakeholder consultation, environmental scans, defined areas of need, and trustee scrutiny, school board budgets frequently align with each learning communities’ preferred vision for student success, based on common values and beliefs. 

A recent study suggests that when superintendents align resource allocation with instructional priorities, the impact on student outcomes is three to four times greater. 

Commissioned by the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), the study also points to evidence that high quality schools have undisrupted learning environments, clear teaching objectives and high expectations of students. Further, superintendents need to focus on building sustainable learning cultures that promote critical reflection, shared responsibility for student success, and the use of school and classroom data to drive continuous improvement. 

President of CASS and Superintendent of Canadian Rockies Public Schools Chris MacPhee said the study is part of three interrelated research projects focused on building the capacity of superintendents, system leaders and school leaders. Included are a literary review of best practices, a working warehouse of leadership development programs across 52 Alberta school authorities, and a report on current partnerships between Alberta school authorities and universities in leadership learning. 

“Leadership development of superintendents has far-reaching implications on the achievement of every students via their influence over school and classroom conditions,” said MacPhee.  “As the trilogy points out, ‘when superintendents succeed as system leaders, so do students.’” 

MacPhee noted that the research trilogy is timely with the Feb. 7, 2018, provincial announcement that superintendents hired after September 2019 will be required to attain additional certification to serve as a superintendent in Alberta. Just as Alberta’s Teaching Quality Standard is the basis for certification of all teachers in Alberta, the new Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard will form the basis of a new leadership certification program for superintendents. 

“CASS, along with other professional learning providers are working collaboratively with the ministry to develop a leadership development program that will support the next generation of superintendents,” said MacPhee. “We anticipate further information on superintendent leadership certification will be made available from the province over the next several months.”

Darrell Robertson, superintendent of schools for Edmonton Public Schools (EPS) said the research findings reaffirm EPS’ belief that the most impactful decisions are evidence-based and data-driven. To that end, the district will continue to focus on honing its ability to maximize the data available to staff.

“Collaboration and equity also are essential components of EPS’ work. Educating children is a collective responsibility and we must work together to ensure each child has the resources and supports they need to be successful,” said Robertson.

“There is still much work to be done. In particular, system leaders must focus effort on meeting the needs of our diverse learners. We can only be successful by engaging staff, families and community in the moral ownership of education,” he added.

Also weighing in on the trilogy is Dr. Michael Fullan, renown author and the Global Leadership Director, New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, who will write a forward for the trilogy. For the past decade Fullan’s team has played a supporting role with CASS to enhance leadership capacity of system leaders in the province. 

“Our emphasis has been to go from practice to research. We find that 80 percent of best ideas come from leading practitioners, rather than directly from research. Having made effective practice the basis of the work, we are encouraged that CASS is being attentive to best practice and linking its work to research, in partnership with the Alberta research community,” said Fullan. “Such development is forming a strong foundation for the next phase of development in the province where research and practice will be intertwined and related to further improvements in practice.” 

The research trilogy has been posted to CASS’ website at: