Almost any organization would benefit by having a way to fill leadership vacancies effectively. Schools are no exception. This guide, prepared at a time when the rate of principal turnover was approaching 20 percent, seeks to help school districts examine and improve how they can tap one source of talent to fill the principal’s job—assistant principals, APs.  

The guide describes steps in developing a strong approach to advancing APs to the principalship, beginning with the formation of a team to examine current district AP promotion practices and to come up with a plan to fill gaps in the district’s current practices. It also breaks down the work for the team into three components: forecasting principal vacancies, identifying assistant principals who have significant potential to fill the principal post, and preparing APs for the job. For each, the guide describes the kind of data the team needs for understanding and informed decision-making.  

The heart of the guide is a set of “district reflection” tools for three areas of work—forecasting principal vacancies, identifying AP candidates for the job, and preparing them to take on the position. The tools are meant to give users a full picture of what's involved in carrying out these tasks and where districts may need to make improvements. Another tool, a workplan template, can help the teams organize their efforts and reach decisions on matters including timelines, success measures, and costs.

The guide is one in a set of tools Policy Studies Associates has developed to aid districts engaged in building principal pipelines. The Principal Pipeline Self-Study Guide for Districts maps out the key features of effective pipelines and offers guidance to districts that want to improve them. Strong Pipelines, Strong Principals, written with EducationCounsel, identifies federal funding sources to support specific efforts to strengthen a pipeline. The Principal Pipeline Sustainability Guide explains what it takes to sustain an effective principal pipeline and provides tools to help school district teams keep the pipeline going.