Aspiring principals often lack the training to improve teaching and raise achievement in troubled urban schools. This report finds that districts can influence universities to revamp principal preparation by acting like “discerning customers” who clearly communicate criteria for the school leaders they want to hire. It examines how eight Wallace-supported school districts went about improving principal preparation by setting hiring standards, collaborating with universities to redesign training or even organizing their own competing preparation programs. It describes a number of promising practices, such as strategies for identifying talented candidates for preparation programs and structuring internships for those enrolled. It also uncovers weaknesses in these efforts, including the difficulty of sustaining district-run programs and the absence of systems for evaluating the job performance of university program graduates. Finally, the report draws implications for policymakers, particularly the need for states to consider making substantial, long-term investments in high-quality principal preparation.

Points of Interest

  • Districts had the greatest influence in strengthening university principal preparation programs when they both set high standards for their principal hires and collaborated with universities on improving their program design and delivery.
    Wielding their consumer clout, #school districts in a study persuaded universities to improve #principal preparation.
  • High-quality principal preparation is essential but not sufficient for preparing leaders to take on the most challenging schools. On-the-job training and support are necessary, too.
    Top-quality #principal prep + on-the-job training are both essential for leaders who take on the toughest schools.
  • Full-time internships for aspiring principals are a critical strategy for preparing leaders able to take on tough schools, but the districts studied couldn't sustain them once grant money ran out. It may be up to states to provide on-going support for principal internships.
    A role for states in funding intensive internships to prepare future #principals to take on the toughest #schools?