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Peer-Review Record

Successful School Leadership in the USA: The Role of Context in Core Leadership Practices

Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(10), 968;
by Lauri Johnson 1, Peter Moyi 2 and Rose M. Ylimaki 3,*
Reviewer 2:
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(10), 968;
Submission received: 15 June 2023 / Revised: 6 September 2023 / Accepted: 20 September 2023 / Published: 22 September 2023

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

Thanks for the opportunity to read your contribution to this special issue. I believe that the ideas presented are well thought out, well structured and developed. You review the work in a very succinct manner. This is no mean task given that so much literature has been written about the area. In this regard the lack of comprehensivity has to be noted.

I also appreciate the challenge that you present regarding the context and that there are so many variables that principals need to contend with.

If you have the opportunity to engage more in your discussion with the ever-increasing complexities of schools that would enhance the quality of your review. It will also highlight potential areas that need to be addressed/ engage with. This, in itself, is one of the major issues that schools, especially multi-ethnic schools, have to contend with and that impact on the notion of student 'success'.

Author Response

Please see the attached file 

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 2 Report

Successful School Leadership in the USA: The Role of Context in Core Leadership Practices



The paper is well written and provides a good overview of the historical, geographical and  cultural context of schooling and therefore school leadership. The paper begins with a good summary of U.S Context  for schools and leadership. The political and policy influences are also discussed and help to set the background for this important work. ISSPP and the focus on gathering cases focusing on success and international comparison of cases are also explained well.


The authors indicate that school data reveals diversity in socio economic status, geographical type of school (elementary, middle, senior), student population according to ethnicity. What about disability? You indicate there was a reduced emphasis on and backlash against diversity, equity and inclusion policies in earlier paragraphs. Can you discuss /justify why there was no focus on diversity in ability in your focus?



I suggest that there is a need for more detail about the content analysis used in this study.

What were the questions that were used to guide the content analysis? How were these questions organised within the Leithwood & Riehl framework?

What steps did each author take in analysing the published cases? How did the analysis occur? How was data and meta thinking documented?

How did authors access information about additional frameworks?

How long did the analysis take? How often did you meet (face to face? online) What type of discussions did you have? and I assume member checking occurred? This needs to be clear.

You say “as a collective, we explicitly discussed and analysed the policy and cultural contexts…. “How did this occur? What difference did this make in your overall analysis? 


There is a lot of information that is missing in the Method section and the reader has no understanding of how you developed your findings, which means that your findings are not credible.


I suggest that the structure of Findings, Discussion and Conclusion could be reconsidered. I am struggling to find the evidence from your research in your Findings. At present most of the Findings section is focused on discussing the core leadership practices with supporting literature but I am looking for the data from twenty ISSP case studies?


Once the Findings reflect the data, the Discussion and Conclusion sections should be revised to follow on and link back to the aims of your study.

Author Response

Please see the attached file

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 3 Report

Brief Summary

Thank you for the opportunity to review your article. This well-written and well-structured paper is an important addition to the available knowledge on successful school leadership. The article reports on findings from a secondary analysis of case studies of successful school principals in the USA. It mainly draws on Leithwood and Riehl (2003, 2005) framework of the four sets of “successful” leadership qualities and practices in different contexts and adds growing evidence of complementary factors that contribute to the success of school leaders. The article content is very strong and provides interesting points of evidence and reflection.

My suggestions for improvement would be as follows:

U.S. Context for Schools and Leadership: Tensions and Increasing Complexities

As a minor note, this section needs more references to recent literature on existing tensions and challenges in the US policy environment.

Changing Policies, Politics, and Influences

Although a review of the policies and politics in the US educational landscape is appreciated, I think the authors could concentrate more on the findings and discussion sections.

Beyond Leithwood and Riehl’s Core Leadership Practices

It was not clear how Bourdieu's habitus concept can add value to principals’ agency and therefore needs more detailed information. Typically, a focus on either structures or agency emphasises one organisational level (e.g., micro or macro). Given the complex structures, multiple stakeholders, and ongoing need for improvement, in what ways could Bourdieu’s thinking tools impart the cultural and social capital that could explain the interaction between structure and agency? As schools and leaders claim their space for internal action, an argument could be made to interrogate the relationship between structures and agency. Both involve social, political, and cultural implications for the ways in which institutionalised rules, norms and shared understandings can be sources of agentic power inside and outside of classrooms.

Technical merit

-          Good use of quotes in the section on findings.

-          AVID has been cited on page.2 and page.7. However, the acronym is only explained on page.7.

Overall recommendation

 The article fits the journal scope and intentions of the special issue.

Author Response

Please see the attached file

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Round 2

Reviewer 2 Report

I have reviewed the revised version of the paper and I am happy with the author changes.

Author Response

Dear Reviewer,

Thank you for the comments on our revised manuscript methods. We have reworked the methods section on p 6 to accurately reflect our methodological process of a thematic synthesis and our collective analysis process.


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