Last month, Gretchen Rhines Cheney and Jacquelyn Davis of the Center for American Progress released a study that looked at school leadership from the ground up. Research shows that principals account for ¼ of a school’s total impact on student learning; moreover, there is a growing base of research that “clearly defines the disposition, skills, and knowledge needed for effective school leadership…[but] few educators are being measured against these criteria prior to becoming principals.” Furthermore, principals are positioned to make decisions that allow children to have effective teachers each year of their schools lives, which in effect gives the principal great influence over each student’s academic achievement.
In their research, the authors found that few states are utilizing their authority in the areas of approving principal preparation programs and overseeing principal licensure in an efficient manner to improve educational outcomes for children. Laws are antiquated and describe skill sets that no longer put administrators in good stead to effectively lead modern schools. The authors call upon states to act as gatekeepers and take “immediate action to guarantee that each and every school is led by a high-quality principal.”
The policies and requirements for principal preparation in sixteen states were analyzed for the study; half of these states are “leading” in the efforts to act as gatekeepers, and the other half are “lagging.” The lagging states (IN, KS, MN, NM, OK, SC, TX, WA) are not the only states in the country with poor policies, rather, they stand as concrete examples of poor policies. The leading states (DE, FL, GA, IL, LA, NY, RI, TN) are not perfect and have not comprehensively reformed their entire principal preparation/licensure system, but they provide examples of “specific component reform” that can be used to “create the more holistic reform needed.”
Overall, the authors make several recommendations for states to ensure their role as gatekeepers are being used effectively to improve principal quality nationwide. These are:
1. Develop a framework on principal effectiveness based on current best practice research that governs both principal preparation approval and licensure. Then states must stick to the framework.
2. Be agnostic about what entities deliver the training and development for aspiring principals. The “playing field” should be open to a wide range of providers that meet program requirements.
3. Input-based measures should be limited (e.g., years of teaching and master’s degrees) and performance-based measures that test actual skills and competencies should be emphasized.
To read the full study, please visit http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/10/principalship.html