School districts are awash with data on matters ranging from the education and career experiences of employees to the demographics and performance of schools. By compiling such data within a single online system, six large school districts are seeking to unleash the power of information to build a bigger corps of effective principals and assistant principals, according to this report.

The districts are part of The Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative to improve school leader training, hiring, evaluation and on-the-job support. The data systems they have developed since 2011—known as “leader tracking systems”—have proved particularly useful in school leader hiring. Among other things, they have enabled administrators to unearth strong candidates who otherwise might not have been on hiring radar screens, to more easily make good matches between school needs and job candidates and to remove some bias from hiring decisions.

The data systems are helping, too, in areas including forecasting principal vacancies, determining the right enrollment size of district-run principal training programs, monitoring the diversity of the hiring pool, and giving feedback to university programs on placement rates of their graduates, which could lead to programming improvements.

Based on the districts’ experiences, the report offers a number of “hard-won insights” into how to develop leader tracking systems. These include forming a development team headed by a single person with project management experience and working initially with data already in hand rather than gathering new data.

 Points of Interest

  • To build data systems to aid in shaping effective school leadership, six school districts found it helpful to have someone who could “translate” between potential users of the system and information technology developers.
    Developing a data system to boost school leadership? A translator who speaks both tech and education can help.
  • Demographic data on aspiring leaders can help school districts pursue greater equity in their school leader ranks.
    Demographic data on aspiring leaders can help school districts pursue greater equity in school leader ranks.

 Supplementary Materials