Matthew Clifford, Ph.D. is a principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research. Dr. Clifford directs research studies on school-level leadership as it is practiced by principals and distributed within organizations to improve teacher effectiveness and student performance. Dr. Clifford’s research uses the most rigorous methods to examine the impact of innovative principal preparation, performance evaluation, and professional development efforts by states and districts. Within his portfolio of studies, he is principal investigator for the George W. Bush Institute’s study of principal preparation program impact and district conditions supporting principal retention. He also currently co-directs an experimental study on principal professional development impact funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and four quasi-experimental studies examining the effects of innovative principal professional development.
In addition to his empirical work, Clifford consults nationally and internationally on educational policies and directs efforts to design state/district supports for improved principal practice. Through the , Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at American Institutes for Research, he regularly engages with state departments of education, governors’ offices, and other policymakers to develop school leadership pipeline initiatives and professional development programs that support the current and next generation of school principals. He has worked closely with districts in Idaho, Maine, Missouri, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to design practical and fair principal evaluation systems, and co-wrote Rethinking Principal Evaluation (2012), which was published by National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of Secondary School Principals. He has authored several publications on principal evaluation design, including the Practical Guide to Designing Comprehensive Principal Evaluation Systems(2011), The Five Essential Practices of School Leadership (2014), Framework for Evaluating Assistant Principal Performance (2015), and Quality School Leadership Identification (2010) guides. He is currently validating principal observation instruments to support school leaders’ practices as teacher evaluators and data team leaders. He has published multiple academic works on school leadership and principal professional development. Clifford has been studying and working with school principals as a researcher for the past 17 years, and is a lifelong educator, having worked as a teacher, administrator, and professional developer.