Preparing School Leaders for Success

A growing body of research points to the ways in which principals influence teachers, classrooms, and, ultimately, student achievement. A new study by RAND examines the New Leaders Aspiring Principals program. Aspiring Principals has three core features: selective recruitment and admission, training and endorsement, and support for principals early in their tenure.

RAND’s report is a follow-up to the 2014 evaluation of New Leaders’ Aspiring Principals program. Focusing on the revised program, which was first implemented in 2012, the authors present evidence of the effectiveness of the revised Aspiring Principals program and share lessons that can inform principal-preparation policy and practice.

Researchers determined that the districts that prepared principals through the Aspiring Principals program had higher achievement and better attendance than schools led by other newly placed principals.

The study also found that principal preparation programs could be well situated to identify the characteristics of a good principal. Aspiring Principals participants who scored high on measures of adult and team leadership, as well as instructional leadership, were more effective when they became principals than those with lower scores. High scores on these measures indicate a principal who is able to ensure that the teachers and other school staff understand and are working to meet instructional standards and who effectively supports professional development of teachers and other school staff. The schools led by principals who demonstrated these skills while they were being trained had better student achievement outcomes than other schools.

These findings suggest that effective training for prospective principals can benefit students and that districts have some viable options for improving the quality of leadership in schools.

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