In 2011, six large school districts each set out, with support from The Wallace Foundation, to develop a large corps of highly qualified school principals. After five years, according to this report, they have much to show for their efforts, having succeeded in putting into place four key components of a pipeline to the principalship:

  • Standards that specify what principals need to know and do, and that undergird principal training, hiring, and on-the-job evaluation and support;

  • Stronger pre-service training;

  • More selective and rigorous hiring procedures; and

  • On-the-job evaluation and support designed to help novice principals perform well, especially in improving instruction.

The report is the last in a series of studies examining the implementation of Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative. It finds that “to a striking extent” all six districts carried out the kinds of policies and practices called for by the effort. Benefits to the districts included a new and clearer districtwide understanding of what the principal’s job entails, a possible better fit between new principals and the schools to which they were assigned, and the introduction of performance evaluations that principals considered fair and constructive.

At the same time, the report makes clear that the six districts consider their efforts ongoing.  Some important aspects of pipeline building—including improving professional development and better preparing assistant principals for the top slot—are unfinished.  Others are particularly complex undertakings, notably upgrading university-based training (as opposed to district-provided training) for aspiring principals.  

 Points of Interest

  • Defining standards and competencies for the principal’s job was a powerful first step in building a strong principal pipeline, six districts found.
    Step 1 in developing a large corps of effective #principals? Clearly define what they need to know and do.
  • After six districts introduced more rigorous practices for hiring school principals, novice principals reported a better fit with their schools than their predecessors had.
    After 6 districts strengthened #principal hiring, new principals reported a better fit w/ their schools.
  • Study: Districts are in the earliest stages of figuring out how to recast the assistant principal’s job so it can serve as both a proving ground and an apprenticeship for the top slot.
    A key district task: identifying assistant #principals who are good bets for the top slot and cultivating them.

 Supplementary Materials

  • Novice principals reporting an “excellent” fit of their skills, experiences, and interests with the needs of their school.