McREL Leadership Responsibilities through the Lens of Data: The Critical Nine


  • Cheryl James-Ward San Diego State University
  • Joy Abuyen San Diego State University


Keywords ΓÇô principal, school leadership, hard data, soft data, change, McREL


In the United States, the beginning of the  21st century also ushered in a new era of school accountability and reform with the No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] (US Department of Education, 2010). Although the law is no longer in effect, the district and school level accountability that it brought remains. The accountability and need for ongoing improvement rest squarely on the shoulders of school principals, many of whom have no skill sets or experience with the use of data to improve student outcomes.

This article utilizes the research studies and findings from the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) lab, in order to examine those leadership responsibilities intertwined with the use of data to improve student achievement. McREL has identified 21 leadership responsibilities that describe the knowledge and skills school leaders need to positively impact student achievement.  This analysis focuses on the McREL leadership responsibilities with an effect size of .25 or higher that require a focus on data. The use of hard and soft data to focus improvement is then analyzed and expanded upon through the McREL lens.



Author Biographies

Cheryl James-Ward, San Diego State University

Cheryl James-Ward received her B.S.  in Applied Mathematics from the University of California at Santa Barbara, her M.A. from California State University Dominguez Hills,  and her Ed.D. from the University of Southern California. She has served as both a principal and supervisor of schools for the Long Beach Unified School District.  She is currently an assistant professor at San Diego State University and a leadership coach. She has coached dozen of principals and assistant superintendents throughout California and has written several papers on leadership coaching.  Cheryl James-Ward can be reached at

Joy Abuyen, San Diego State University

Joy Abuyen is a doctoral student in the San Diego State Univeristy Ed.D. program. She has been an educator for over a decade serving in both the largest district in California and a medium size district in the state. Her area of research focus on the role of leadership in actual student outcomes.