This article for Educational Leadership magazine describes how a growing number of large school districts are seeking to improve school leadership by better preparing, selecting and supporting principals. It also draws on more than a decade of Wallace-funded research to explain the importance of these efforts. To improve the candidate pool, districts are exhorting universities to upgrade outdated principal preparation programs or even creating their own, among other strategies. Some have come up with more sophisticated systems for screening candidates and incentives to attract the best ones to the toughest schools. Districts are also finding that new principals benefit from one-on-one coaching with an experienced mentor. To provide principals with more detailed student data, some districts have invested in interactive online data systems and training on how to use them—one even allows schools to share lesson plans. Better prepared and supported principals reduce leadership turnover, districts report. The article also describes other approaches that research finds strengthen school leadership, such as distributing leadership responsibilities to others within the school building.

 Points of Interest

  • The Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky credited a 70 percent drop in principal turnover between 2005 and 2010 with a yearlong certification program co-taught by university faculty and district staff, a district-paid internship and on-the-job mentoring.
    Kentucky's Jefferson County schools reduced #principal turnover by 70% w/better prep, internships & mentoring.
  • More than 80 school districts freed principals from handling bus schedules, lunch menus and other "administrivia" by designating a small team of existing staff members to assume those tasks or hiring administration managers. Research found that as a result, principals spent from one-and-a half to almost two hours more per day working to improve teaching.
    Hiring #school managers for "administrivia" freed almost 2 hrs/day for #principals to improve #teaching. #education
  • To attract the best principals and teachers to its lowest-performing schools, North Caro¬lina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district offered salary bonuses for principals who stayed on the job for at least three years and produced strong student achievement gains. They were also allowed to recruit their own administrators and teachers. Nearly all 24 participating schools were successfully turned around, with single-year state test scores up as much as 20 points.
    Charlotte-Mecklenburg turned around 20+ #schools by attracting top #principals w/bonuses & hiring power. #education