Principal Professional Development: New Opportunities for a Renewed State Focus

AIR’s Cortney Rowland has written a new report examining the opportunities provided by ESSA for states to focus on principal professional development. Again and again, states and districts have focused on teachers rather than principals when making policy and allotting funds and resources for professional development and support.

Principals’ groups and other educators have long lamented that school leaders are often absent from the policymaking process or included as afterthoughts. But many aspects of learning are influenced by the quality of a school’s leader. After all, principals recruit, retain, and support quality teachers, and research shows that quality teachers are the most important element in student success. School leaders influence student learning, the strength of the teachers, and the health of the school environment. And it is the principal who leads and oversees change at the school level. Principals’ continuous improvement and learning is important for student and teacher learning, policy implementation, and cultivating healthy and supportive school communities.

There has never been a more perfect time to spotlight principals and their professional learning. Policymakers should rethink ways to develop and support their school principals through research-based, on-the-job training—aligned to what they need to do their jobs every day.

This brief offers two entry point options for states to consider—the new PSEL standards and the new principal training opportunities in ESSA. The PSEL standards emphasize what principals need to know to build effective staffs and advance student learning. ESSA provides numerous, specific opportunities for states and districts to use Title funds to support principals’ ongoing training and development.

For more, see