Better management linked to student learning outcomes

by Brett Henebery16 Dec 2014

As a principal, “How well am I managing my school?” might be a recurring question, especially as a new year looms.

With major disparities evident in the quality of education that students receive, fingers often point to school managerial practices.

One advocate of this theory is the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge forum, which collects data on operations, targets, and human resources management practices in over 1,800 schools across eight countries.

Their paper, Does Management Matter in Schools, released last week highlighted a range of best management practices and their corresponding scores based on effectiveness and student outcomes.

The authors developed an internationally comparable index schools’ quality control and applied their methodology to measure management practices across 1,800 private and public schools in eight developed (and developing) economies.

The UK, Sweden, Canada and the US were found to have the highest average scores, followed by Germany, Italy and Brazil. India received the lowest scores.

The higher management scores, the paper explained, were positively correlated with better pupil outcomes.

In other revealing data, the research found that ‘autonomous’ schools had no discernible advantage over those within the centralised education system. The paper states:

“Autonomy, by itself is unlikely to deliver better results. However, finding ways to improve governance and motivate principals could make sure that decentralized power leads to better standards.”

The paper’s authors went on to reveal the two key features behind ‘superior management performance’. 

“Among autonomous government schools, two key features account for a large fraction of the superior management performance of such schools: 1) having strong accountability of principals to an external governing body and 2) exercising strong leadership through a coherent long-term strategy for the school.”

Overall, the data suggested that by improving management strategy, schools could raise the quality of their education standards and ‘give broad support for the fostering of greater autonomy of government schools’.

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