Principal Pipelines: A Feasible, Affordable, and Effective Way for Districts to Improve Schools

Rand has released a new report on The Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative (PPI). Students performed up to 6 points above the median percentile on state tests in schools that implemented the program, which is aimed at improving school leaders.

Research across the decades has confirmed that effective school leadership is associated with better outcomes for students and schools. A high-quality school leader affects dozens of teachers and hundreds or thousands of students. It is a pivotal role.

From 2011 to 2016, The Wallace Foundation, through its Principal Pipeline Initiative (PPI), provided funding and technical assistance to support six large school districts in their efforts to put in place systematic processes for the strategic management of school leaders. The purpose was to examine whether a comprehensive principal pipeline would be more effective than business-as-usual approaches to the preparation and management of school leaders. The term principal pipeline is shorthand for the range of talent management activities that fall within a school district’s scope of responsibility when it comes to school leaders, including leader standards, preservice preparation opportunities for assistant principals and principals, selective hiring and placement, and on-the-job induction, evaluation, and support.

This report documents what the PPI districts were able to accomplish, describing the implementation of the PPI and its effects on student achievement, other school outcomes, and principal retention. The authors found that all six PPI districts were able to implement comprehensive pipelines, and they did so in different ways. The PPI had positive effects on a wide range of outcomes that school districts care about, and evidence of these positive effects was widespread. The authors also found that the work is affordable: It cost a PPI district about $42 per pupil per year, or less than 0.5 percent of the district’s budget in each school year, to operate and enhance its principal pipeline. The authors conclude that districts looking for ways to enhance school outcomes and improve the retention of newly placed principals should be encouraged by the experiences of PPI districts.

For more, see: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2666.html

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