Research has shown that school principals matter greatly
to teaching and learning, but the university training they receive for the job has struggled to keep pace with the post’s growing demands. This is an issue of concern to the school districts, whose future principals often emerge from university principal preparation programs. To test a path forward, in 2016 The Wallace Foundation launched the University Principal Preparation Initiative, providing support to seven universities and their district and state partners to better align their principal preparation programs with evidence-based practices.
This report summarizes key lessons for school district leaders from the RAND Corporation’s five-year study of the initiative, which found that through collaboration with school districts, state organizations and others, universities can defy expectations about institutional resistance to change and bring about meaningful principal preparation program redesign.
RAND’s study concluded that district leaders involved in the effort found these partnerships to be demanding but worthwhile, offering the possibility of three critical and mutually reinforcing benefits:
- Principals whose preparation is more closely aligned with district needs,
- Improved leadership development practices in the district, and
- A data system to support and develop school leaders.
This brief outlines considerations for other school districts interested in forming similar partnerships, from finding a willing university partner, to considering their own system’s readiness to engage in the partnership, to committing to refining the district’s role in the leadership pipeline.
The seven universities were Albany (Ga.) State University, the University of Connecticut, Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, Virginia State University and Western Kentucky University.