Six districts get creative to find the principals of their dreams

The six districts are participating in The Wallace Foundation’s $75-million Principal Pipeline Initiative, a multi-year effort supporting the districts and training partners as they strengthen and align the four key parts of a pipeline:

1. Leader standards: In an effort to recruit qualified principals, the six districts are clarifying standards for principals and translating them into required job skills. District officials are working to align principal preparation, hiring, evaluation, and support to these standards. This is a change from the past when each of these functions evolved separately and didn’t always reinforce each other.

2. Pre-service training: Participating districts are creating or strengthening training partnerships with one or more universities, and universities are aligning their curricula with districts’ leadership standards. This collaboration is significant because all too often districts feel that local universities’ graduates don’t meet district hiring needs. Yet some pre-service university training programs remain relatively un-selective, meaning that people who will never be hired are earning credentials.

3. Selective hiring procedures: Pipeline districts are now basing their hiring criteria on the leader standards and, overall, making hiring procedures for principals much more selective. In Denver, for example, candidates must create a professional development plan for a school. And in Prince George’s County, applicants now analyze videos and different scenarios, and personal recommendations are less likely to determine whether someone is hired. Unsuccessful candidates receive information about their identified weaknesses so they can address deficiencies.

4. On-the-job evaluation and support for principals: While principal evaluations are still a relatively new area in education reform, all six districts are working to align evaluation and support for novice principals. Each district’s standards and competencies for principals will provide a common basis for evaluation criteria and will help determine the support principals receive. Districts are developing evaluations that identify gaps in skill, knowledge, or behavior that principal supervisors or coaches can help principals address on the job.

“This first evaluation can provide school districts, especially complex urban districts, with descriptive lessons about how to address current challenges in hiring and retaining qualified instructional leaders,” said Edward Pauly, Wallace’s director of research and evaluation. “Each year we will learn more about how districts implement their pipelines, including progress made on improving principal training, hiring, and evaluation practices.”

He continued: “Ultimately, the research team will determine whether building a stronger principal pipeline improves student achievement across the district. Stay tuned.”


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