Six school districts will receive funding from a $75 million initiative that will help them develop a much larger corps of effective school principals and determine whether this improves student achievement across the districts, especially in the highest-need schools.
Based on 10 years of research, the Wallace Foundation, the nonprofit educational group spearheading the project, has identified four key parts of a “principal pipeline” that can develop and ensure the success of a sufficient number of school principals to meet district needs: rigorous job requirements, high-quality training, selective hiring, and on-the-job evaluation and support.
The six districts, which serve thousands of low-income students, are Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Denver; Gwinnett County, Ga.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; New York City; and Prince George’s County, Md.
The foundation selected these districts from 90 candidates because they already have efforts under way to groom qualified school principals and thus are best able to put strong, complete pipelines in place, it said. The six districts’ plans include working closely with select principal preparation programs to improve the training aspiring school leaders receive before they are hired by the district.
The new “principal pipeline” initiative takes previous Wallace Foundation work an important step further. The foundation is seeking to find out whether districts can create pipelines that produce a large number of highly qualified school principals and whether student achievement rises as a result. A strong pipeline would have four interlocked parts:
- Defining the job of the principal and assistant principal. Districts would create clear, rigorous job requirements detailing what principals and assistant principals must know and do. These research-based standards underpin training, hiring, and on-the-job evaluation and support.
- High-quality training for aspiring school leaders. “Pre-service” principal training programs, run by universities, nonprofits, or districts, recruit and select only the people with the potential and desire to become effective school principals and provide them with high-quality training.
- Selective hiring. Districts hire only well-trained candidates to be school leaders.
- Leader evaluation and on-the-job support. Districts regularly evaluate school principals and provide professional development, including mentoring, that aims to help novice principals overcome weaknesses pinpointed in evaluations.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) will receive $7.5 million—$2 million in the 2011-12 school year and the balance over the remaining four years. The district has several leadership programs in place, including its Strategic Staffing Initiative, which puts strong principals and leadership teams into struggling schools. Strategic Staffing has led to increased achievement, and the district has put it in place at 21 schools.