Six districts get creative to find the principals of their dreams


This first report finds that the districts share several common purposes:

  • District leaders in several sites want a larger pool of strong principal candidates due to a decline in the number of quality of applicants.
  • District leaders want to roll out evaluations that can hold principals accountable. Yet, in several districts, accountability has resulted in principal dismissals, which have increased demand for new principals while making the job seem less secure to applicants.
  • To find new qualified applicants, district leaders want to start as early as possible in educators’ careers, reaching into the teaching force to cultivate leadership talent.
  • All districts are developing standards for the principalship and aligning training, hiring, evaluation, and professional development to them. One district called these standards “the driving force.”

Research for the initial report is based on the collection and analysis of qualitative data, including the districts’ proposals, work plans, and progress reports and semi-structured interviews in spring 2012 with 91 administrators employed by districts and their partner institutions.

The six districts, which serve thousands of low-income students, are Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C.; Denver Public Schools; Gwinnett County Public Schools, Ga.; Hillsborough County Public Schools, Fla.; New York City Department of Education; and Prince George’s County Public Schools, Md.

An example of the extreme demand for high-quality principals can be seen in New York City, which needs to hire as many as 200 principals a year.

“These school districts, like other nationwide, face a problem: They need strong principals, but it’s a demanding job that, in some places, offers little job security,” explained lead author Brenda Turnbull of Policy Studies Associates. “They want to bring in new principals who are ready to meet those challenges.”

(Next page: How they’re changing their strategies)

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