Numerous studies have shown that strengthening the principal workforce can lead to better teacher and student outcomes. Principal pipelines, or the systems that recruit, prepare, support and retain school leaders are critical to establishing an effective and sustainable workforce.
The Principal Pipeline Learning Community (PPLC) initiative, supported by The Wallace Foundation, brought together school districts around the country to support their work in developing effective principal pipelines. Along with opportunities for collaboration, district leaders were provided guidance around planning and implementation.
By surveying participants of the PPLCs, researchers have identified promising practices that can help support the development of successful principal pipelines.
Successful districts engaged in the following practices:
- Differentiated leadership standards for the various school leader roles
- Partnered with local principal preparation programs.
- Provided ongoing and tiered support for principals in the early stages of their career.
- Ensured principal supervisors have sufficient time and space to support principals
- Provided financial and implementation support for data systems for talent management
- Established specific, targeted programs to attract leaders of color and to encourage candidates of color to pursue leadership roles.
- Created transparency through systematizing processes.
Despite these successes, participants in PPLCs also noted a variety of contextual barriers to implementing principal pipelines. The largest challenge facing districts was capacity; to sustain pipeline work, districts needed consistent, dedicated central office personnel to lead the work. That said, some districts were able to fill gaps in capacity through working with technical assistance providers and universities. Highlighting the many roles university partnerships can have, districts worked with universities for program evaluation and data analysis in addition to principal preparation. Other potential barriers included inconsistent allocation of resources and support from the community or district leadership.
3 Things to Know
School principals being second only to teachers in impacting student outcomes, it is critical to have a highly effective principal workforce. Principal pipelines function to establish that workforce.
The Principal Pipeline Learning Community (PPLC) initiative provided opportunities for collaboration and guidance for districts around implementing and planning principal pipelines.
In studying the PPLC initiative, researchers identified strategies for district leaders to address the barriers they encountered in establishing successful principal pipelines. States can ensure alignment of initiatives, review leader standards, provide explicit support and encourage partnerships between districts and external stakeholders to support the district level strategies.
Based on these findings, researchers made a number of recommendations for district leaders to organize and dedicate capacity for principal pipeline work. To support these efforts, state legislatures can consider:
- Ensuring alignment among existing policies, initiatives, and goals for school leaders.
- Reviewing and revising leadership standards to reflect the expectations and required capacities of leaders.
- Considering leadership priorities based on the emerging demands on school leaders
- Considering the multiple types of leadership roles, e.g., principals, assistant principals, teacher leaders, deans of students, instructional coaches and principal supervisors.
- Providing explicit support for increasing the diversity of the principal workforce
- Encouraging or incentivizing district connections and relationships with university partnerships, technical assistance providers, and unions