School principals are “invaluable multipliers of teaching and learning in the nation’s schools,” according to this report by political scientist Paul Manna, but to date it’s been unclear what state policymakers could do to boost their effectiveness.

Drawing from sources including the experiences of states that have focused on developing stronger principal policy, this report aims to fill that gap by offering guidance in the form of three sets of considerations for those who want to take action.

  • The first is an appraisal of the principal’s current status on the list of state priorities and the rationale for placing the principal higher on the agenda, such as the fact that principals can have a powerful effect on the classroom.
  • The second is an examination of six policy levers that states can pull:
    • Adopting principal leadership standards into state law and regulation;
    • Recruiting aspiring principals into the profession; 
    • Approving and overseeing principal preparation programs;
    • Licensing new and veteran principals;
    • Supporting principals’ growth with professional development; and
    • Evaluating principals.
  • The third is an assessment of four important contextual matters for the state: its web of institutions responsible education governance and the interaction among them; its diversity of urban, suburban and rural locales; its capacity, along with the capacities of its communities, to carry out new policies; and its mandates already affecting principals.

The report emphasizes that every state faces a unique blend of educational, political and financial circumstances and that, therefore, each state’s approach should fit its needs and particularities. “There is not a cookbook recipe for policy development or implementation that will work equally well in all states,” it says. “State and local adaptations will be necessary. Still, there are some useful places for all states to start, regardless of their current conditions."

 Points of Interest

  • Principals report exercising more power over matters like teacher evaluation, but they remain equally responsible for traditional activities, like setting school discipline.
    #Principals are bearing more weight as old responsibilities remain and new ones are layered on top of them.
  • When studied from afar, the 50 states possess a remarkably similar set of governing bodies that oversee education. Up close, however, how these organizations and other state institutions manage their internal affairs, wield authority, and interact with each other (as well as local schools and interest groups) can vary tremendously.
    50 states=50 different ways of governing education and 50 different contexts for policy regarding school #principals.
  • Since 2000, growing percentages of principals report having received mentoring or coaching, but gaps among city, suburban and rural areas persist.
    Since 2000, more #principals report having received coaching, but gaps among city/ suburban/rural principals persist.