In 2011, The Wallace Foundation launched the Principal Pipeline Initiative, an effort to help six large school districts improve their “principal pipelines,” systems to train, hire, anIn 2011, The Wallace Foundation launched the Principal Pipeline Initiative, an effort to help six large school districts improve their “principal pipelines,” systems to train, hire, and evaluate and support school principals. This series of independent evaluations explores the initiative.

Five of the reports, by Policy Studies Associates, examine the effort’s implementation, documenting the steps the districts took to put strong pipelines in place, the challenges they faced and lessons other districts could draw from their work. The last of these reports, published in 2016 and looking over the sweep of the initiative, concludes that the districts were able to carry out the kinds of policies and practices called for by the effort “to a striking extent.”

A sixth report, from 2017, examines the districts’ “leader tracking systems,” which collect and store data on individual schools as well as the training, qualifications, performance and demographics of principals and aspiring principals. Districts are using the systems to assist them in principal hiring and other leadership activities.

A cost study, looking at both expenditures and resources the districts drew on to build and operate their pipelines, was published by the RAND Corporation in 2017. The study found that the cost of building and running the pipelines averaged about .4 percent of the districts’ annual budgets.

A follow-up report by Policy Studies Associates revisits the pipelines in 2018, two years after foundation funding for them ended. It concludes that although pipelines have changed in some respects, they remain intact and valued.

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 Points of Interest

  • Figuring out what their principals need to know and do, and then committing this to writing, was of singular importance to districts trying to build a large corps of effective school leaders.
    Spelling out what #principals must know/do had surprising power for districts seeking to boost leader effectiveness.
  • After six districts introduced more rigorous practices for hiring school principals, their novice principals began reporting a better fit with their schools than their predecessors had.
    After 6 districts strengthened #principal hiring practices, new principals reported a better fit w/ their schools.
  • School 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.