A new research synthesis from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) highlights the importance of preparation and professional development on principal quality and the power of state policy to improve the quality of principal learning.
The research is clear: high-quality principal preparation and professional development programs improve principal quality, increase principal and teacher retention, and increase student growth and achievement. In addition, evidence suggests that high-quality professional development programs also lead to improvements in teacher effectiveness and student attendance.
States have made significant progress in enhancing principal development policy throughout the past 20 years. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., adopted or adapted nationally recognized school leadership standards by 2014. In addition, most states also established requirements for school principals to be licensed, have prior experience in an educational setting, complete a preparation program, and pass an assessment.
Despite this progress, researchers found that most principal candidates still lack access to research-proven learning strategies. High-quality internships, applied learning opportunities, and mentoring or coaching are important to principal development, but few principals reported having access to them during preparation or professional learning programs.
State level policy changes have the power to address these gaps in principal development opportunities. Researchers suggest state legislators consider the following policy options:
- Update principal licensing and preparation program accreditation standards to incorporate program features identified by research as important to principal development.
- Leverage federal funding to invest in a statewide infrastructure for principal professional learning to ensure consistent access to sustained, high-quality professional development.
- Target resources to high-poverty schools to address disparities in access to high-quality principal preparation and learning.
- Provide competitive grants and/or technical assistance to encourage local school districts to develop principal pipeline programs.
This new report demonstrates that states can use these research-driven policy options to improve outcomes for principals, teachers and students.