Establishing a principal pipeline could be an affordable path for school districts looking to reduce turnover and improve schools, according to a new report from the nonprofit RAND Corporation.

The study examined how six large urban school districts are investing in their leaders through a concept called “principal pipelines,” which help districts develop a better preparation, hiring, evaluation and support system for principals to ensure they are effective. The Wallace Foundation funded the initiative.

States and districts continue to struggle with a shortage of highly-effective principals, but there is little information about what level of resources would be required to develop such a pipeline.

“Districts can likely prioritize developing better principals with the resources they have now,” said Susan Gates, one of the lead researchers on the report. “Our research found the main expense of this effort was the salaries of district staff members who helped screen, support and evaluate principals – activities that most districts are already doing, just not in a strategic way.”

RAND researchers found that developing a pipeline to improve school leadership has been affordable for the six districts, which spent 0.4 percent of their annual budgets to boost the quality of school leaders.

(Next page: Per-principal spending)


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