Principal Leadership:
 How to Be More Effective
May 2013
In This Issue
Rubric for Rigor
Advanced Mentor Training Report
A Principal Uses an Application-Based Approach
Magical Five: One Principal's Path
Principals in Urban Districts
Better Training for Leadership

Roadmap to rigor   
Roadmap to Rigor Rubric 
NAESP has developed a rubric that will help principals and teachers engage in discussions about rigor and plan for integrating greater rigor into instruction in their schools. While it can be used as an observation and feedback tool, many principals may find it easier to use this tool to help teachers become more aware of the components that facilitate greater rigor.


The rubric addresses higher-order thinking skills, deep understand-ing, problem solving, and metacognition. The roadmap also includes an appendix with an annotated bibliography and additional resources.

NAESP also offers Rigor Workshops that explore strategies and processes to help students move to deeper levels of understanding through metacognition, higher level expectations, and problem solving. Level I is basic. Level II provides guidance with use of the Rigor Roadmap.


If you are interested in reviewing the Rigor Roadmap and providing feedback to NAESP, or for more information on the workshops, please contact Dr. Christine Mason at


NAESP's First Advanced Mentor Training 



NAESP offered its first advanced mentor training session at Teacher's College in New York City on May 2-3.  Eighteen participants from 10 states came together to focus on improving their listening skills, sharpening their principal mentoring, and building their repertoire of tools to assess school climate.   


Dr. Brian Perkins from Teachers College and Carol Riley, who directs NAESP's mentor program, led participants through two days of activities as they examined research on principal mentoring and problem solved in small groups. This highly dynamic session left participants eager to return home to strengthen their principal mentoring and leadership.


NAESP is currently setting its agenda for principal mentoring in 2013-2014. Sessions focusing on introducing principal mentoring will be offered in Arizona, Georgia, Vermont, Virginia and more. The schedule for Advanced Mentoring is currently being developed - stay tuned for specific dates and times!  


To find out more about NAESP's principal mentoring contact Pam Willis at or go to



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For more information on our services and modules or for a free 2-hour consultation, contact Dr. Christine Mason
toll-free 800-386-2377 
or 703-684-3345 


To help us meet your needs, please include in your email  the answers to the following questions:


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Visit Our Websites 

The Newsletter Archive  page on CEI's website contains a library of previous Wow! Ed editions. 


Also visit the Publications page on the NAESP website to read additional publications designed to meet the needs of today's school leaders. 

Dear Educator,


First an announcement: We are taking a summer break. The next issue of Wow! Ed will be August, 2013.  

Principals, to be more effective instructional leaders, need to be masters of their craft. In essence, they do not only have text-book knowledge. They also need to be able to implement strategies in ways that contribute to a positive school culture,  affirm their teachers, and demonstrate that they are truly "leading" their schools and not just following mandates from on high in their district. Not an easy task in the era of the Common Core, when educational reform is driven by state and federal efforts. 


So where should principals focus, to be successful?  If you could implement only one change to improve your leadership, what would it be?


The Wallace Foundation has provided a wealth of information on principal leadership. Established in 1922, the Wallace Foundation focuses on improving the quality of principals, the use of expanded learning time in the summer and in afterschool programs in particular, and quality arts education programs. The Wallace Theory of Change is to follow a continuous cycle of listening, to identify gaps, field interest and timelines, and work with grantees and researchers to build improvements and foster widespread adoption. The Wallace Approach is to 1) understand the change, 2) generate improvements and insights, and 3) catalyze broad impact. Since 2000, the Wallace Foundation has undertaken leadership improvement initiatives in 24 states, resulting in the publication of over 70 research reports.


What Makes the Principal?
An Application-Based Approach to The School Principal as Leader: Guiding
Schools to Better Teaching and Learning

By Adam D. Drummond, Ed.S., Principal, Lincoln Elementary School, Huntington, Indiana


Trust is defined by Merriam-Webster as: "an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something." Trust is certainly one factor that is critical to the success of school principals. It is foundational for the work of the principal. As Tartar, et al. (1989) reported, supportive principal behavior is highly correlated with faculty trust. Several researchers have also found that personal regard for teachers, personal competence, and individual integrity were also linked to trust and shared leadership (Bryk & Schneider, 2003; Louis, 2007).


What other factors are associated with principals who are the most effective? Based on lessons from more than 70 research reports developed from work in 28 states, the Wallace Foundation (Harvey & Holland, 2013) summarized five inter-related practices that are crucial to being an effective principal. These include:


1) Shaping a vision of academic success for all students.

2) Creating a climate hospitable to education.

3) Cultivating leadership in others.

4) Improving instruction.  

5) Managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement.


In describing the principal as a leader, the Wallace report  emphasizes the power of the building principal in establishing a culture for success of a school. "Principals play a major role in developing a 'professional community' of teachers who guide one another in improving instruction" (p. 9). 


During the past decade, closely connected with improving instruction, is an increasing emphasis on tying student performance to high-stakes assessments. And in 2013, the connection has been extended to principal and teacher evaluations. So the principal is challenged to find accurate ways to measure teacher performance. 


Where to Begin--Too Much to Assess

 Author Ben Levin, who wrote How to Change 5,000 Schools (2008), states that the success of the school rests within the improvement of daily teaching and learning practices of the school. In his text he argues that administrators must find a balance of expectations for teachers. In essence, less is more. In his work, he follows nine practices for improved outcomes. Among them are high expectations for all students, effective teaching practices in all classrooms on a daily basis, and effective use of data and feedback by students and staff to improve learning. In order to focus on specific indicators, two practical strategies to support teachers include clear expectations and weekly stand-up meetings.  

Instructional Knowledge


The Wallace Foundation report on principals as leaders states:  "The simple fact is that without effective leaders most of the goals of educational improvement will be very difficult to achieve" (2013, p. 15). Administrators must have instructional knowledge, and the report emphasized that administrators must have the required training to become instructional leaders.  A meta-analysis conducted by Robinson, Lloyd, and Rowe (2008)  showed that principals who focused on instructional leadership significantly impacted student achievement. The principal must be able to support the classroom teacher, and, when students are not making expected gains, guide the process of data analysis, and design and implement instructional interventions.  


So, how does the building leader build trust with staff through the lens of instructional leadership?  
  1. Be a Learner: When there is professional development for teachers, either designed by you as the building leader or organized by district leadership, attend. Take notes and share the notes with those in attendance, and those staff members not in attendance. Showing one is fully engaged in what is being taught or trained exhibits a commitment to the instructional support in your school.
  2. Be a Teacher: Make time in your week to co-teach a lesson, conduct a side-by-side running record in small group reading instruction, or simply be an extra set of hands in the classroom. Showing you know how to teach and you are willing to get your "hands dirty" exhibits trust and equal partnership. Trust me; the paperwork you need to get done is less important than being visible.
  3. Be Visible Daily: How do you know if you are accomplishing this? It's easy. If you walk into a classroom, and the students interrupt to say, "Mrs. Stephenson, Mr. Drummond is here!" is a clear indicator you are not in classrooms enough. Being visible in the classroom and giving feedback in the form of walk-throughs show you are committed to the success of the school, and that you are willing to provide feedback in a non-confrontational way.


While it may be easy to list ways to prepare oneself for teacher evaluations, the implementation can be challenging.  Providing meaningful feedback in teacher evaluation is a paramount goal. Make time in your schedule. Each day, I attempt to block out one hour in my schedule to be in classrooms. It may be three twenty-minute periods or even an hour block. It may not always work due to the dynamic nature of the position, but putting the time in your schedule holds you accountable yourself. Showing you are a team player and visible is critical. After all, trust is the foundation to success.




Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: A core resource for school reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6), 40-44.


Evans, H.J. (2008). Winning with accountability: The secret language of high-performing organizations, Fourth Edition. Dallas, TX: CornerStone Leadership Institute.


Harvey, J. & Holland, H. (2013). The school principal as leader: Guiding schools to better teaching and learning. New York: the Wallace Foundation.  


Levin, B. (2008). How to change 5000 schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.


Louis, K. S. (2007). Trust and improvement in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 8(1), 1-24.


Robinson, V.M.J, Lloyd, C., & Rowe, K.J. (2008). The impact of educational leadership on student outcomes: An analysis of the differential effects of leadership types. Education Administration Quarterly, 41, 635-74.


Tarter, C. J., Bliss, J. r., & Hoy, W. K. (1989). School characteristics and faculty trust in secondary schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 23(3), 294-308.

The Magical Five - Another Look at How They Guide Effective Principals

By Kathleen Sciarappa, Ed.D.

NAESP Coach/Mentor/Trainer


Five is a magical number in education. Research suggests school reform takes five years and principals determined to make substantive change are encouraged to stay at least five years (Fuller & Young, 2009). Similarly, the Wallace Foundation favors five functions in a report on effective principals. The 2013 report identifies five key interdependent strategies used by effective principals: 1) shaping a vision of academic success for all students; 2) creating a climate hospitable to education; 3) cultivating leadership in others; 4) improving instruction; and 5) managing people, data and processes (Harvey & Holland, 2013).


As a mentor I witnessed the formation of these important strategies when principal Forrest Ransdell began modeling, perhaps unwittingly, the Wallace practices as he assumed leadership of an urban middle school. Undaunted by the low-performing scores achieved by students, the even lower teacher morale, and an aloof community, Forrest began the process of guiding the school towards a brighter future. Forrest assumed the leadership position as an interim principal after the mid-term departure of a woman who held the position for a little more than a year. The school, guided by a School Improvement Grant (SIG) as a result of many consecutive years of poor academic performance, was struggling to manage the 12 initiatives mandated by the grant.


During our early discussions Forrest shared his insights regarding his first few weeks on the job. His conclusion: "The teachers are broken." Having witnessed staff reactions to yet another round of disappointing test scores I had to agree. During a faculty meeting I happened to attend, the rallying teacher cry at a nearby table was, "If you want better test scores, give us better kids." Yes, the teachers were broken. Sensing their feelings of abandonment due to a staccato history of revolving principals and assistant principals (29 in ten years) Forrest repeatedly commented to staff and parents that if his interim principalship became permanent, he would guarantee at least a five-year stay. His five-year stint as an assistant principal within the district served as testimonial to his sincerity. Soon after his arrival, Forrest was appointed permanent principal. Forrest began taking the magical steps to turn around the school.


Shaping a Vision of Academic Success for All Students


The 12 SIG initiatives provided an unintended match for Fullan's (2011) version of the wrong drivers in educational reform. While compelling, when schools or districts lead with the wrong drivers--accountability; promoting individual teachers; technology; and fragmented strategies, the outcomes are disappointing. The school was headed in the wrong direction. Instinctively, Forrest shifted emphasis to a balanced combination of the four right lead drivers--capacity building; strengthening teams; working collectively to strengthen instruction; and working systemically. He thereby harnessed the energy needed from staff and students to drive improvement.  


Together with the staff he candidly assessed progress in the 12 initiatives and selected which to promote and which to save for another day. Forrest created a simple visual model, a roadmap of sorts, featuring student achievement at the apex, supported by key initiatives, and provided each member of the school community with a copy. Professional learning communities were established and parent contacts and events tripled. Forrest set aside a week of evenings and a Saturday to meet individually with parents whose children were chronically absent or failing. The vision was coming together.


Creating a Climate Hospitable To Education


Forrest freely acknowledged to his staff that he was likely being viewed as "flavor of the month." He knew his constant assurance that he intended to stay for at least five years were simply words. Staff needed action. Forrest made his presence known in classrooms, outdoors, in the halls, in the lunchroom and at events. He offered to meet with every staff member to discuss what was working and what needed work. Team-building plus working on culture and climate were clear mandates derived from those staff interviews. Forrest met with each grade level and clearly stated to students that respect and responsibility were two basics requirements. He also described in detail what respect and responsibility look like.


Integrated into one of the central initiatives, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, the respect and responsibility theme was reinforced by staff wearing uniquely decorated hats during the school-wide kickoff events. Safety and discipline procedures were solidified and carefully followed. Increased efforts to follow through were promised to staff. Drab offices were painted cheerful colors on Saturday mornings and mailboxes were moved into the front office to increase teacher and administration contact. Welcome cards and notes from students were hung. Dances were moved from evenings to after school, followed by staff parties at a local tavern. Forrest's "work hard/play hard" attitude was embellished as he paid out-of-pocket for appetizers.  


He was cheered when students grumbled that teachers were doing things they were not allowed to and he responded, "Staff is not subject to a student code of conduct." Yet students flock to Forrest because he listens and talks with them individually. He lets teachers know he is on their side. He lets parents know he is on their side. He lets students know the same. In a crowning moment, he sang "Beauty School Dropout" on stage in front of the entire school. What could be more sincere?


Cultivating Leadership in Others


Teachers sometimes say leadership starts at home. What they mean is with the office staff. Forrest quickly created a better home by reorganizing the office staff. Moving two secretaries to separate quarters allowed each to concentrate not only on their work, but on specific duties matched to their unique talents. The separate functioning assistant principals were quickly unified as partners. A StrengthsFinder (Rath, 2007) analysis identified all three administrators as having strengths in strategic planning enhanced by a sense of positivity. The sole achiever in this group of optimistic planners was asked to develop lists and then make sure everything was getting accomplished.  


As home was solidified, Forrest strategically bolstered grade level Professional Learning Communities and school SIG teams. Team-building activities helped clarify purpose. Most importantly, Forrest attended all the meetings to establish a clear sense of mission for each group. Gradually, Forrest pulled back from the teams so that key staff could assume leadership roles. The teacher evaluation task force proved especially effective as staff leaders convinced colleagues the new teacher evaluation system had worth. Instructional teams first informed staff about effective instructional strategies, then trained staff on how to employ and assess such strategies. As one teacher noted, Forrest is an established alpha, yet leadership responsibilities are shared and diversified.


Improving Instruction


A chapter-by-chapter discussion of Danielson's (2007) teaching framework provided a foundation for good practice in instruction. A staff survey revealed ambivalence towards a key SIG initiative, Response to Intervention, but enthusiasm for Creating Independence through Student Owned Strategies (CRISS). With two CRISS trainers on the staff, Forrest immediately changed the focus towards CRISS, arranging training which he also attended. The hundreds of laptops purchased for students through the SIG grant became more useful as staff learned how to use programs to differentiate instruction. Forrest worked effectively with the consultant charged with teacher interpretation of AIMSweb data, assessing student progress. Team time focused more consistently on using data to examine student progress and plan instruction.


Managing People, Data and Processes


Barriers to school progress can be as mundane as scheduling. Forrest spent many hours drafting better management tools from the underutilized technology systems already in existence. Simply printing handbooks to explain special education programs, in color, prompted a teacher to remark, "Now I love you twice." Tending to underpinnings allowed time and space for greater tasks. Forrest took on the data-rich and information-poor dynamic and slowly the numbers began telling a story understandable to all. Forrest is making magic; Wallace approves.




Danielson, C. (2007). Enhancing professional practice:  

A framework for teaching, 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 


Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system  reform. Center for Strategic Education.   


Fuller, E. & Young, M. (2009). Tenure and retention of newly hired principals in Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas. Harvey, J. & Holland, H. (2013). The school principal as leader: Guiding schools to better teaching and learning. The Wallace Foundation.   


 Rath, T. (2007). Strengthsfinder 2.0. NY: Gallup Press.
Effective Principals for Urban Districts: Emerging Lessons from The Wallace

Foundation's Principal Pipeline Initiative

By Jody Spiro, Director,  Education Leadership, the Wallace Foundation   


Principals play a pivotal role in promoting high-quality teaching and learning in their schools--both for the students and for the adults who work there. Research from the Universities of Minnesota and Toronto (Seashore et al., 2010) tell us that principals are second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school and that principals are essential for turning around troubled schools. A 2007 report from Stanford University underscores that effective principals are also key to retaining good teachers (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007). And, since sharing leadership and leading the school's professional learning communities are essential skills for principals, they deeply influence how teachers and other staff members feel about working there.


Wallace's 2011 publication, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning, summarized 12 years of field work and research to identify and elaborate upon five practices of effective principals. Effective principals: shape a vision of academic success for all students; create a climate hospitable to learning; cultivate leadership in others; improve instruction; and manage people, data and processes to foster school improvement. It is quite a formidable job; the challenges are enormous but the potential impact is considerable.


Almost two years ago, The Wallace Foundation launched a major initiative to find out whether, if a large urban school district built a pipeline of highly effective principals, school performance and student achievement would improve across the district. During our previous 10 years of work in 26 states and 15 urban districts, we learned many important lessons about what effective leadership looks like, how influential school leaders are in improving instruction for both the adults and students in the school, and what contributes to the development and ongoing support of such leaders.   


Prince Georges County Board honored students and educators in Upper Marlboro, MD. The PG Public Schools is one of the six urban Wallace pipeline school districts.


Commissioned, independent researchers studied the exemplars from that work and came up with important lessons. However, what we did not know was whether a district could actually put all the pieces together so all schools had effective principals and-- if it did--whether student achievement would ultimately improve. That is why we embarked on this "principal pipeline initiative" in 2011 with six urban districts and their training provider partners. Our goal is to learn lessons, not only within these six districts, but lessons that are applicable for districts throughout the country.


The main components of this work are: (1) rigorous standards for leaders; (2) high-quality pre-service preparation programs; (3) selective hiring; and (4) on-the-job evaluation and support tailored to the needs that emerge, such as mentoring and professional development. This is all done in the context of furthering the district's overall education improvement agenda-- and not as an "add-on."


Important Lessons from the Pipelines


Even in this early stage of the principal pipeline work, we are identifying important lessons. Three of them will be highlighted here.   


First is the importance of standards for leaders. These need to be research-based, rigorous and transparent so everyone in the district community knows of them. These standards are the drivers of everything else--they need to be carefully linked with the curriculum of pre-service training programs, hiring criteria and the way principals are evaluated and supported. Having standards is one thing; making sure that they are consistently applied is another. The six districts with which we are working are making these connections. New York City, for example, has closely linked its definition of "high-quality school" with its "School Leader Competencies." This has permitted them to link their "Quality Review" of schools with feedback to principals and their further training and support.


Secondly, districts and training providers can be effective when they "co-create" pre-service programs for aspiring school leaders based on the district's standards. In Denver, for example, the University of Denver and the district work together on the Ritchie Program for School Leaders to supply Denver schools with leaders who are "knowledgeable, highly skilled and relentless in their commitment to reshaping school culture around collaboration, questioning, high expectations and accountability."   


Lastly, a third lesson from the pipeline project is the critical importance of on-the-job support for new principals. The initiative will allow the districts to evaluate novice school leaders once they are on the job--and then provide them with mentoring and other forms of professional development that address needs determined by the evaluations. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, another of our six pipeline districts, has created an exemplary ladder of support for new principals. "Our view is that licensure doesn't automatically mean you are ready to be a principal," says Ann Clark, deputy superintendent. The district has designed a five-year induction program for new principals: For the first two years, a new principal is part of a professional learning community with other new principals, and during those two years, they are coached by a sitting, highly effective principal.


The induction program has its own curriculum, and the principals visit other schools and classrooms. In the third year, the principals go to a Change Leadership Institute at a local university; the fourth year, they go to an Innovation Institute; and, in the fifth year, they do a capstone project in which they push themselves to think what kind of support they need from the district. In addition, a district official shadows second-year principals for a week and codes everything the principal does, identifying tasks that could be delegated to a secretary or another member of the leadership team so the principal can focus on instruction. "It's been amazing to see the transformation, and the feedback is incredible about the quality and the timing of the training," says Clark. "Having the professional learning community is what they need--a safe place to ask questions." It's been so successful that Charlotte plans to offer the same ladder of support to assistant principals.   


Our pipeline project aims to make sure districts have great principals in every school. Throughout the endeavor, independent researchers will examine the six districts' efforts, in part to see what works and what doesn't in putting together a district-wide pipeline. They will publish periodic reports about their findings. By the sixth year, they will measure the effects on student achievement of the principals who have emerged from these pipelines. Stay tuned for the progress and lessons for all principals.    




Darling-Hammond, L,, LaPointe, M., Meyerson, D. & Orr, M. (2007). Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World. New York, NY: The Wallace Foundation


Seashore Louis, K, Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K. & Anderson, S.(2010). Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota and Ontario Canada: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto.

Pathways to Better Training
for Principal Leadership 


By Willie Jackson, Ph.D., Reflective Resource Incorporated

NAESP Coach/Mentor for the National Mentor Certification Program


"To date, we have not found a single case of a school improving its student achievement record in the absence of talented leadership" (Seashore-Louis, et al., 2010). How are school districts, states and educators responding? Is there a true urgency to develop exemplary training programs for candidates who are aspiring to be principals that will drive change throughout schools with results that either enhance or increase student achievement?  


In 2007, the Wallace Foundation published "Educational Leadership: A Bridge to School Reform" and in 2012 the follow-up focused on leadership training for principals. Lee Mitgang's (2012) "The Making of the Principal: Five Lessons in Leadership Training" provides best practices from districts engaged in 1) building quality leadership training programs, 2) equipping principals for their role as educational instructional leaders, and 3) promoting and fostering student achievement.



Dr. Willie Jackson  

Be Selective

Lesson 1 focuses on who should, and more importantly, who should not be admitted to leadership training. Programs that accept nearly everyone do not contribute to the ultimate goal of producing well-prepared principals capable of promoting excellent teaching and learning. These programs are likely to include a mix of applicants seeking a raise as a result of increased educational credentials, applicants who do not work well with teachers, or applicants who are not equipped to work in challenging environments.


In contrast, exemplary programs incorporate a strong partnership between training programs and districts. Districts use referrals, recommendations or online research-based screening tools to determine experience, leadership skills, aptitudes and dispositions. By doing so, the district takes an active role in identifying, recruiting and screening prospective training candidates with the potential and desire to lead schools (Mitgang, 2012) and who buy into implementation of the district's mission and vision. For example, Chicago, St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois, school districts require prospective leadership candidates to agree to serve as principals in their schools for a set number of years. In exchange, the districts cover the cost of leadership training and full-time internships (Terry-Orr et al., 2010). The outcome and results can be impressive. Stanford's researchers found that graduates of exemplary training programs were far more likely to be women (73% vs. 48%) and members of minority groups (37% vs. 8%) than those in a national sample of leadership programs graduates (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007).  


Take away:  Districts must play an active role in screening and weeding out candidates in order to raise the quality of aspiring principals and increase ethnic and gender diversity.  


Make Training Relevant

The status quo for training tends to stress building management and include more passive techniques such as shadowing a principal. Money to pay participants who are on leave from teaching can be a barrier that exemplary programs face according to the Stanford Study (2007). However, the findings emphasize the importance of promoting exemplary programs despite the cost.    


Lesson 2 focuses on the importance of curricula that meet leadership needs of the district as well as provide principals with hands-on and situational learning experiences.


Hallett (Colorado) Principal Charmaine Keeton is a graduate of the  

Ritchie program, one of the principal pipelines that will benefit from the Wallace grant.   


The key is curriculum that teaches principals how to use data to identify student needs while building their competence in improving instruction and changing school culture paradigms. The University of Illinois at Chicago's training program requires participants to gather and analyze their own school data as a way to better understand and apply theoretical knowledge about leadership. The Ritchie Program for School Leaders in Denver emphasizes putting theory into practice and strives to train and supply highly skilled leaders in the areas of collaboration, questioning, setting high expectations, and accountability (Korach in Mitgang, 2012). In addition, "[an] exemplary program requires participants to analyze real-life leadership challenges and respond to them" (Mitgang, 2012). Instead of limiting hands-on experience to simply shadowing and observing, participants learn how to collaborate and foster teamwork through role-playing or working in cohort groups to share experiences and find solutions.  


Take Away:   Principals who challenge the status quo and focus on improved instruction come from exemplary programs that include adult learning techniques such as action research, case method, role playing and cohort learning groups.


Exercise District Power to Raise Quality

Lesson 3 elaborates on school districts' unique position to define their role in improving training programs. The chart below, based on the Education Development Center (EDC) analysis, summarizes the actions districts take or the roles they assume in order to influence outcomes.


District Role

Discerning Customer




Set leadership standards and use them to improve candidate pool

Partner with universities to influence course content and align with district needs

Take initiative to develop own training program


Adopt state standards or develop your own


Use standards to determine program admittance

Use standards to make selection decisions for district-funded internships

Establish formal district-provider partnership to create programs

Focus support on participants at partner universities

Award scholarships usable only in preferred programs


Create free standing academies with curricula tied directly to needs



Clarifies expectations

Provides universities with insight on district needs and principal roles to guide program upgrades

More direct role and involvement

More incentive for universities to make changes


Gives most control over design and outcomes



Lengthy process

Dependent on willingness to change policies and practices

Hard to maintain when faced with fiscal challenges or changes in district leadership


Most costly route

Vulnerable to changes in leadership

School District Examples

Boston "Ten Dimensions of School Leadership"

Fort Wayne, IN


Jefferson County, KY

Springfield, IL

St. Louis

Boston School Leadership Institute

Prince George's County, MD

NYC Leadership Academy

Take Away:     Districts have the most influence on training programs when they declare they will only hire graduates of exemplary programs who meet their needs.


Make a Commitment at State Level

Lesson 4 acknowledges that State level involvement through standards, accreditation, certification and financial support is an underutilized leverage point. What's missing is the systematic channeling of state authority and funding. The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) concluded "the lack of coordination between these different actors within the school leadership system severely inhibits the ability of state leadership standards to take hold regardless of their quality" (Sun, 2011). However, a few states have made progress by utilizing financial assistance from Race to The Top Grants and participating in Wallace Foundation's education leadership initiatives. Notable examples include:

  • "Delaware, Iowa and Kentucky received high marks in a 2010 RAND study for their progress in aligning state and district policies affecting principal training with clear school leader standards" ( Augustine, et al., 2009).
  • "Georgia, Illinois, Florida, New York, Delaware, Louisiana, Iowa and Tennessee are among states that have required universities to redesign their leadership programs, so they're in sync with standards focused on student learning and instructional improvement - and then reapply for state approval" ( Wallace Foundation, 2007).
Take Away:   Improving school leadership statewide requires states, districts and universities to communicate and collaborate. State funding is critical.

Don't Neglect Training after Hiring New Principals

Lesson 5 highlights the need to provide training and formal support after hiring new principals. Fortunately the sink-or-swim approach is gradually falling by the wayside. "Since 2000, more than half of the states have enacted requirements for mentoring novice principals, spurred by growing recognition of the importance of school leadership to reform goals, and by concerns about high turnover and looming principal shortages in high-needs schools" (Wallace Foundation, 2007).


School principals are presented with the ongoing challenge of providing high quality training, sustained mentoring and professional development in addition to organizational development, recruiting, supporting and retaining high quality staff. Providence, Rhode Island; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Leader-Plus Academy, and NYC Leadership Academy are among the leaders with high quality mentoring and professional development programs. Also, the NAESP National Mentor Program is designed to engage retired and experienced principals to support aspiring, newly assigned, or experienced principals through mentoring. The first program component is 2 days of training, followed by a 9-month mentor-in-training internship as the second component.


Take Away:   New principals need coaching and mentoring tailored to district, school, and individual needs.



Research suggests five lessons or pathways to better principal training: Select applicants carefully, make training relevant, exercise district influence to raise quality, make a commitment at the state level, and train after hiring. The culture and environment of a school principal is often based on speed and decisiveness. The "Pause Principle" provides a process for analyzing research data to support exemplary leadership training programs. Kevin Cashman (2012) defines this principle as

"...the conscious, intentional process of stepping back, within ourselves and outside of ourselves, to lead forward with greater authenticity, purpose and contribution. Pause points provide a way to instill a consistent, intentional manner for reflection by building self-awareness and clarity of purpose, exploring new ideas, risking experimentation, questioning, listening and synthesizing and challenging the status quo, within and around us."

To demonstrate true urgency, districts and principals must step out of their comfort zone and lead the charge for a paradigm shift to a new reality where successful principals are transformed from traditional autocratic to transformational school leaders, building trust and involving others.




Augustine, C. H., et al. (2009). Improving school leadership: the promise of cohesive leadership systems. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education.


Cashman, K. (2012). The Pause Principle - Step back to lead forward. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.


Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., Meyerson, D, & Orr, M. (2007). Preparing school leaderships for a changing world: Lessons from exemplary leadership development programs - Final report. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University, The Finance Project. Retrieved from:


Mitgang, L. (2012). The making of the principal: Five lessons in leadership training. New York, NY: Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from: http//  


Mitgang, L. (2012). Upward Bound - The Mile High City's innovative principal training partnership continues climbing [includes Interview with Susan Korach, Maureen Sanders and John Youngquist of the Denver Public Schools].  


National Institute for School Leadership, Prince George's County Public Schools, and Success by Design. (2011). Partnering in PGCPS' aspiring leadership program for student success, a front-end analysis. Washington, DC: author. Retrieved from: http//   


Seashore Louis, K, Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K. & Anderson, S.(2010). Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota and Ontario Canada: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto.


Sun, C. (2011). School leadership: Improving state systems for leader development. Arlington, VA: National Association of State Boards of Education.  


Terry-Orr, M., King, C., Lapointe, M. (2010) Districts developing leaders: Lesson on consumer actions and program approaches from eight urban districts. Boston, MA: Education Development Center, Inc.


Wallace Foundation. (2007). Education leadership: A bridge to school reform. New York, NY: author. Retrieved from:


Wallace Foundation.(2013). The school principal as leader: Guiding schools to better teaching and learning. New York, NY: author.


Wallace Foundation. (2007). Getting principal mentoring right: Lessons for the field. New York, NY: author. Retrieved from:



Your Principalship: Your Leadership
If you are interested in improving your instructional leadership it sometimes helps to start with one area and one goal.  Are you considering improvements in your visioning, your management, your instructional leadership, the school climate, or capacity building?  What is your goal? What do you need to do to realize it?  What difference will improvements in one area make for your school, for your life?
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Christine Mason

Director, Center for Educational Improvement

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