Research Validated

Developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, and validated in over 200 schools across the country as part of federally-funded grant, CALL addresses the five domains of leadership practice most closely correlated with school effectiveness. 

Three to five subdomains are situated within each of the leadership domains. These subdomains serve as the primary unit of analysis for research and feedback. Feel free to download this document on the CALL subdomains for more information. 

As we have done for many partners, the CALL Team is able to align the CALL subdomains to other frameworks (PSEL, for example) used by various education organizations. Otherwise, the five research-validated domains of CALL are:

Domain 1: Focus on Learning

A school-wide vision focused on student learning and shared by all members of the school community is a clearly identifiable characteristic of schools that close achievement gaps and improve learning for all students. The shared vision can also reduce conflict by providing a common lens for interpreting action. A shared and sustained focus on continuously improving student learning cannot be maintained without unambiguous symbolic and substantive leadership of the principal and the leadership team. 

Because the time for school leaders and instructional staff to collaborate is limited, creating meeting time that meaningful, focused, and rewarding is critical to effective collaborative design. Many schools attend to planning learning environments, but this CALL practice focuses on created an integrated learning plan. Integrating the students’ learning environments builds on the learning perspective of the students, rather than the adults in the school. 

In successful schools, teachers anticipate the learning needs of students and provide motivation, engagement, and instructional designs that enable students to succeed at challenging curricula. Teachers take responsibility for all students and design instructional strategies that promote learning and prevent failure.  Student learning needs are met in heterogeneously grouped classrooms in the least restrictive environment, and teachers differentiate instruction and provide scaffolding and support as a fully integrated part of their practice.

Domain 2: Monitoring Teaching and Learning

Formative assessment is an ongoing process that provides students and teachers with feedback on progress toward instructional goals.  Schools that improve learning for all students establish school-wide expectations for the use of formative assessment, and teachers incorporate such assessment into daily teaching practice. Schools that improve learning for all students establish clear expectations for learning that align with state or district tests, including considering the relationship between state test results and student grades, and student experience with testing language and formats.

Schools have a variety of mechanisms to improve instruction, but the most effective mechanism is providing teachers with an opportunity for regular, ongoing formative feedback and support. Many teacher evaluation systems focus on novice or struggling teachers, but lack consistency in conducting formal evaluations of all teachers.  Summative evaluation of teaching should be designed to support teacher growth and development, and should be consistently administered according to state and district teacher evaluation policies. Evaluation data can inform school-level analysis of teacher training needs, identification of expert teachers who can share best practices and lead coaching, mentoring, and school improvement efforts.


Domain 3: Building Professional Learning Communities

Two structural features of schools help to create an environment in which collaboration can occur school-wide around problems of teaching and learning: 1) leaders should set aside regular time in the school day for teachers and staff to collaborate with one another; 2) the time should be structured according to the principles of effective meeting practices so that there is an effective facilitator, a clear agenda, a spirit of trust, collaboration, and purpose that drives and focuses the conversation.  In many schools, leaders believe that simply setting aside time is enough, but the leader’s role also includes creating clear expectations for the meeting, training for meeting facilitators and team members, and follow-up to ensure that the members of the group are held accountable for the work required.  Ideally, professional learning is determined through a comparison of the vision for student learning and current teaching practice and learning data to pinpoint real teacher learning needs; it utilizes local teacher expertise; and it provides opportunities for ongoing teacher collaboration around teaching and learning.  

In order for leadership to be effectively distributed, the school community needs to share a clear vision focused on student learning, and decision-making needs to be transparent, with input sought on critical resource allocation decisions such as teacher and student scheduling, budgeting, and extracurricular priorities.  Leaders need to make a commitment to build the leadership of others, through opportunities for professional learning, opportunities for participation in leadership and improvement efforts, and the identification and utilization of staff expertise to enhance instruction and move the school forward. Lastly, instructional coaches and mentors provide opportunities for expert teachers to provide information, feedback and support to individual teachers in their particular classroom or context.

Domain 4: Acquiring and Allocating Resources

Schools that move learning forward pay careful attention to allocating human resources in ways that most effectively address the learning needs of students.  While many schools allocate teachers to classes based on teacher seniority, the most effective schools allocate teachers based on teacher expertise and student learning needs. Moreover, time is an exceptionally scarce resource in schools.  Schools that succeed in moving student learning forward recognize the importance of student and staff time and carefully allocate time for student learning and shared planning or professional collaboration of teachers and staff.

Schools that close achievement gaps and improve learning for all students seek to acquire and align financial resources with learning goals. Staff members pursue innovations that promise to promote student learning, and leaders find the resources necessary to invest in these interventions.  Leaders view staffing, time and financial resources as flexible and reallocate resources as necessary to ensure that additional instructional time is available during the day, after school, on weekends and/or during the summer to ensure student success.

District experts and external consultants can bring needed expertise to the school to improve the effectiveness of leadership, teaching and learning. Schools that use external expertise effectively carefully manage new knowledge and new approaches to complement rather than compete with current expertise and programming.  Also, parents can provide an important source of support for student success in school. Schools that promote success for all students ensure that parent communication includes high level, detailed information about student success, opportunity, and school programs.

Domain 5: Maintaining a Safe and Effective Learning Environment 

Behavior management requires the establishment of a behavioral management and support system that clearly defines and consistently enforces behavioral expectations of students. The system should not create conditions for disproportional discipline of particular student subgroups.  Therefore, the school should provide opportunities for teachers to regularly review student discipline data and address inequities as they arise.  In order for students to succeed academically, they need to feel that they are valued and that they are safe. Serious student misconduct occurs infrequently, and does not impact the learning environment.

Students do not need to be labeled to receive the educational support they need to be successful.  The school regularly evaluates data and works to refine intervention strategies for addressing issues with student attendance, suspension, bullying, and dropping out.  Adults work to build strong and effective relationships with students, with virtually all students having a close connection to at least one adult member of the school community. Specific programs are in place for ensuring successful transitions as students progress through grade levels and to college and careers.