Developing Excellent School Principals: Considerations for State Policy

logo-WallaceFdnEven though school principals have a powerful impact on teaching and student achievement, in general they remain relatively low priorities on crowded state education policy agendas. A new report recently released suggests a number of possible actions that state policymakers can consider to raise the profile of principals on policy agendas and ensure they are well trained and well supported on the job.

The Wallace-commissioned report, Developing Excellent School Principals to Advance Teaching and Learning: Considerations for State Policy, offers a detailed analysis of what some states have done to strengthen principals and suggests that their actions fall into three areas that can guide policy-making. It emphasizes that every state faces a unique blend of educational, political and financial circumstances and that, therefore, each state’s approach should fit its needs and particularities.

Paul Manna, professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary, and author of the report states, “There is not a cookbook recipe for policy development or implementation that will work equally well in all states. State and local adaptations will be necessary. Still, there are some useful places for all states to start, regardless of their current conditions.

Although the report presents no single formula for success, its ideas can help guide states interested in better training and supporting principals. The three areas that can guide policy making are as follows:

  1. Move principals higher on policy agendas
  1. Use six possible policy levers:
  • Adopting principal leadership standards into state law and regulation
  • Recruiting aspiring principals into the profession
  • Approving and overseeing principal preparation programs
  • Licensing new and veteran principals
  • Supporting principals’ growth with professional development
  • Evaluating principals
  1. Better understand diverse state and local contextual factors likely to influence how the levers play out in practice.

The report also offers fresh insights into the overloaded job of principals themselves, suggesting that state policymakers should understand principals’ full responsibilities before adding new ones.

To read more analysis of the report, see the executive summary

To read the full report, see