Despite years of education reform efforts, many urban public schools are falling short, unable to raise student achievement. An often-missing ingredient in improving public K-12 education is sound school leadership, cited in research as second only to teaching in school influences on student success.
How We Are Tackling It
Since 2000, Wallace has helped states and school districts develop and test ways to improve leadership by principals and others in schools. We have supported leadership development efforts in 30 states, the District of Columbia and numerous urban school districts as well as the publication of more than 90 research studies and other reports and materials to advance the field as a whole.
Equity-Centered Pipeline Initiative
Eight Districts to Develop Principal Pipelines for Equity-Centered Leaders
Building on strong evidence that comprehensive, aligned principal pipelines can be a feasible, affordable and effective way to improve student achievement districtwide, eight large school districts around the country will explore how to build pipelines that can produce school leaders capable of advancing their own district’s vision of equity. Through a series of independent research studies, the work of the eight districts is expected to generate useful insights for other districts.
What equity means in any given district depends on its history and context. So each district in the Equity-Centered Pipeline Initiative will form a District Partnership Team with local community organizations, two university leader-preparation programs, and the state education agency to develop its own, local definition of equity and define what an equity-centered leader needs to know and be able to do.
Each District Partnership Team will then design a comprehensive, aligned equity-centered pipeline that translates each district’s vision into reality, provide mentoring and training for current principals and assistant principals, and engage in continuous improvement.
Selected through a rigorous, competitive process, each district has at least five high-needs high schools and more than 48,000 students, and has provided evidence of strong support for the effort from local stakeholders, university partners, and the relevant state education agency. Assuming they are successfully renewed each year, each District Partnership Team will receive grants totaling $8.2 million over five years, with the total cost of the initiative estimated at $102 million. The eight participating District Partnership Teams include:
- Baltimore City Public Schools, Maryland
- With local groups, Morgan State University, Towson University, and the Maryland State Department of Education
- Columbus City, Ohio
- With local groups, Ashland University, Ohio State University, and the Ohio Department of Education
- District of Columbia Public Schools, District of Columbia
- With local groups, Howard University, George Washington University
- Fresno Unified School District, California
- With local groups, San Diego State University, National University, and the California Department of Education
- Jefferson County School District, Kentucky
- With local groups, Spalding University, University of Louisville, and the Kentucky Department of Education
- Portland Public Schools, Oregon
- With local groups, Portland State University, Lewis and Clark College, the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, and the Oregon Department of Education.
- San Antonio Independent School District, Texas
- With local groups, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at San Antonio, and the Texas Education Agency
- Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, North Carolina
- With local groups, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Appalachian State University, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
seven parts of comprehensive, aligned principal pipelines include: leadership standards; principal preparation programs; recruitment, hiring and placement; support and evaluation; a principal supervisor role; leader tracking; and systems to sustain the work.
Each district will determine its own technical assistance needs and contract for those from its grant. Additionally, support will be provided to all districts on community engagement (National Urban League); school board engagement (Council of the Great City Schools); review of alignment of current district leadership policies and practices with the definition developed by each district (The Leadership Academy and
Bank Street College of Education); and development of leader tracking systems. Each District Partnership Team, researchers and technical assistance providers will participate in four learning community meetings managed by
Learning Forward to share what they are learning and learn from colleagues.
Each university participating as a District Partnership Team member will work with a partner provider that has successfully redesigned its program to be responsive to the on-the-job realities of the principal’s job and the needs of the district. These programs are: Albany State University (GA); Florida Atlantic University (FL); North Carolina State University (NC); San Diego State University (CA); Virginia State University (VA); University of Connecticut (CT); University of Denver (CO); University of Illinois at Chicago (IL); and Western Kentucky University (KY).
You can read an Oct. 14, 2021, story about the initiative in Education Week.
The work of the District Partnership Teams builds on strong evidence about the importance of principals and the benefits of comprehensive, aligned pipelines.
systematic synthesis of 20 years of research on principals found that an effective principal has a positive impact on student achievement comparable to that of an effective teacher, but across an entire school. And a separate study of six large districts found that comprehensive, aligned principal pipelines developed in large, high-needs districts led to
outperformance by students in reading and math compared to similar schools, as well as improved principal retention.
The initiative aims to help fill a gap in knowledge about how districts can prepare and support principals capable of bringing the district’s own vision of equity to fruition. A
2020 survey of 175 large districts suggested field interest in this question; it found that less than half were satisfied with their district’s pool of principal candidates, with a lack of diversity being the most common shortcoming noted by respondents, and a majority wanting to strengthen their own principal pipeline.
Throughout the initiative, a series of in-depth, independent studies will document how each district’s culture, history, structure and leadership shape its approach to equity; key actions, challenges, opportunities and changes that result from the effort; and how equity-centered leadership can be measured. Researchers will also explore the relationship between equity-centered leadership and student benefits to inform the design of a potential effects study that might separately be undertaken in the future. Studies include:
- A three-year study of the districts’ central office led by University of Texas at Austin researchers with researchers from the University of Iowa, University of Houston and California State Polytechnic University-Pomona;
- A six-year implementation study that includes the development of a tool to measure equity-centered leadership led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, along with researchers from UCLA, Teachers College, American Institutes of Research and WestEd;
- And a five-year study of research use and research-practice partnerships led by University of Colorado Boulder researchers.