Bethesda, Md. — September 12, 2007 — New challenges in education, spurred largely by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, have increased pressure on principals to improve student performance. As a result, principal preparation programs are generating school leaders who often have more extensive leadership training and experience than principals who entered the field earlier, according to a new report from Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

The report, ?Leading For Learning 2007,? examines differences between up-and-coming principals–those with less than five years of experience–with veteran school leaders who have been on the job for more than 10 years.

New principals have more leadership experience, according to the report, with nearly three-quarters–73 percent–having formerly served as an assistant principal, compared with 59 percent of veteran principals. Just under 5 percent of new principals rose from the teaching ranks without additional administrative or leadership experience, in contrast with almost 15 percent of veteran school leaders.

The principal workforce is also becoming more diverse, with greater percentages of females and minorities represented. Among up-and-coming principals, 54 percent are women and 20 percent are members of racial and ethnic minority groups, as opposed to 36 percent and 15 percent, respectively, among veteran principals. In addition, the median age of principals rose from 48 to 51 years over the last decade.

Meanwhile, new principals are more likely to find themselves at the helms of schools with high levels of student poverty and lagging academic performance. According to the report, half of up-and-coming principals work in schools that did not fully meet performance standards, compared with only 40 percent of veteran principals. And 40 percent of newer principals work in majority poor schools, compared with 34 percent of veteran principals.

?These demographic shifts may reflect changes in American society, but they also signal significant changes within the profession,? said Christopher B. Swanson, the director of the research center. ?The result is an increasingly diverse generation of school leaders who are increasingly charged with lifting student performance in challenging environments.?

?Leading for Learning? (available online at is the fourth in a series of Education Week/EPE Research Center special reports on leadership in K-12 education that have been sponsored by the Wallace Foundation. The report includes in-depth profiles of several innovative programs that have set the tone for change:

  • England?s National College for School Leadership, responsible for the National Professional Qualification for Headship, which sets nationwide standards for the principalship in England. Some U.S. educators consider its approach to leadership preparation and development a promising model.
  • New Leaders for New Schools, which operates in nine urban districts to train principals for the challenges they face in these districts. The nonprofit organization emphasizes accountability, and has set a goal for 2014 of raising 90 percent of students to proficiency in schools where one of its principals has been in charge for five straight years.
  • East Tennessee State University, which has formed a collaborative partnership with two local school districts to revamp its educational leadership program. All participants in the program were handpicked by district officials as having strong leadership potential and paired with experienced mentor principals.

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