Decisions about who is in charge of school systems often make the news. High-profile cases such as the recent takeover of the Houston Independent School District by the State of Texas – where one of the first steps by state leaders was to replace the superintendent – highlight the central importance of district leadership as well as the public perception of superintendents as critical contributors to the quality of a school system.
Yet decision-makers who want to rely on research-based evidence about who to select or even how to conceptualize the characteristics required to be successful as superintendents have relatively little to draw on in the education research literature. In the spring of 2023, The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management partnered with the Annenberg Institute at Brown University to bring together a group of scholars who have made recent contributions to research on superintendency and to educational leadership more broadly.
These conversations resulted in a strong consensus on the need for a renewed push to build knowledge around specific aspects of the superintendency, anchored in new data that broaden the research that is possible in the field. Future research, in particular, could inform the field by investigating superintendents’ roles, including their time use, decision-making, priorities, management styles, and behaviors; the routes to the superintendency and factors associated with retention; how and why superintendents improve; and the causal impact of superintendents on key outcomes.