- The Wallace Foundation’s $48.5 million effort to redesign principal training programs has had a successful first year and may “inspire and mobilize other principal preparation programs toward transformation,” according to a RAND Corp. evaluation released Tuesday.
- Involving seven higher education institutions partnering with districts in their states, the University Principal Preparation Initiative is considered a response to high principal turnover, difficulties in replacing them and a “a perception that newly hired principals lacked the skills to succeed in their positions,” the report says.
- The effort has focused on creating a coherent curriculum, giving prospective school leaders supervised clinical experiences, and creating strong relationships between universities and school districts. “Working through early uncertainties, most partnerships also arrived at clear visions of [a leader tracking system] that would both help university programs engage in continuous improvement and support districts to identify, develop and more effectively place leaders within their system,” the authors write.
With greater attention than ever to how principals’ roles are shifting to focus more on instructional issues, universities are preparing leaders for more than just managing a school. And districts face increased challenges in finding leaders who can recognize the elements of strong instruction, ensure professional development meets teachers’ needs, and work with families and community partners to increase opportunities for students outside of school, as well.
These aspects of leadership are especially important for schools serving high-needs students. A 2014 report by the School Leaders Network showed that roughly 27% of principals in high-poverty schools leave each year and are often replaced by inexperienced administrators.
As the partnerships continue, the lessons learned will be valuable to other universities and districts working to strengthen pathways for school leaders and increase retention. A few lessons noted in the RAND report include being intentional about choosing partners that can be flexible while also being a strong voice within their organization, taking the time to build strong relationships, having a clear communication process, and being comfortable with the slow pace of change.