Education Drivers

Principal Professional Development (In Service)

Providing principals with high-quality professional development and supports throughout their careers is critical for principal retention and ensuring effective school leadership. New principals entering the profession must acquire an administrative license through the state, and maintain that license through continuing education and professional development throughout their careers. All states include school leadership standards within their licensure systems intended to represent what is known about effective principal practice, and provide targets for principal competencies for initial licensure and guide future professional development. Most states require teaching experience, an advanced degree, and passing of an initial licensure exam to grant licensure. However, research has failed to establish a consistent link between advanced degrees and principal effectiveness; in addition, the research base has failed to establish a connection between licensure exam scores and principal performance or retention, and many experts have criticized these scores as limiting racial diversity in the principal workforce. Licensure systems are recommended to include multiple measures of candidates’ competencies within a variety of assessment contexts to provide a more complete and fair assessment of candidates’ leadership effectiveness.

High-quality principal induction programs for early career principals include job-embedded coaching and/or mentoring, and participation in collaborative cohorts and peer networks to share ideas and gain perspectives of colleagues. Coaching and mentoring programs should take particular care in hiring mentors and matching them to mentees, and provide compensation and professional development to mentors for their roles. Professional development for principals must be ongoing, engaging principals in a cycle of continuous improvement, and providing supports such as continued coaching/mentoring to help principals extend their focus beyond managerial competence towards instructional leadership. Unfortunately, research from national surveys suggest that evidence-based job embedded supports and training are in short supply for many principals across the country. Several professional development programs that have been subjected to rigorous program evaluation and have demonstrated mixed results for principal outcomes are described.

Principal Professional Development Overview

Donley, J., Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, (2021). Principal Preparation. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.

Principal Professional Development PDF

Effective principals—key for high-quality teaching and learning in schools—exert a strong but indirect influence on student learning and achievement as well as school improvement efforts (Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Hitt & Tucker, 2016; Leithwood et al., 2010, 2020; Robinson et al., 2008; Supovitz et al., 2010). In fact, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that every school be staffed with an effective leader (Fuller et al., 2017). Ensuring effective school leadership requires best practice in each phase of the principal development pipeline, from recruiting the right candidates to providing ongoing support throughout their careers.

Research suggests that principals tend to become more effective after 3 years as they gain experience on the job (Béteille et al., 2011); however, significant numbers of principals leave schools each year, many within the first 3 years of tenure (Goldring & Taie, 2018; School Leaders Network, 2014). Principal attrition is costly (School Leadership Network, 2014), and investments in improved principal retention are an effective way to improve teaching and learning (Wallace Foundation, 2011). The role of principal has become increasingly complex, stressful, and time demanding due to heightened accountability pressures and the highly influential part a principal plays in student learning outcomes (Davis et al., 2005; Fusarelli & Militello, 2012). In fact, many new principals report feeling overwhelmed and anxious during their first year (Lashway, 2003). Research suggests that, optimally, principals should be in place at a school for 5 to 7 years for the school to benefit from their leadership (Wallace Foundation, 2013), making early-career retention paramount.

Principals also need ongoing, high-quality in-service training and support, such as mentoring and coaching programs, which are critical in developing and keeping effective principals (Coggshall, 2015; Sutcher et al., 2017). However, a review found that as of the 2015–2016 school year, only 20 states required some type of support for new principals, and just six required any support beyond a principal’s first year (Goldrick, 2016). School districts, as well, often overlook professional development for principals, focusing resources and support primarily on teachers (Manna, 2015; Rowland, 2017; School Leaders Network, 2014).

            Principal professional development encompasses multiple phases including recruitment and selection, completion of a preparation program, initial licensure, induction, and continuing professional development (Gordon, 2020; Steinberg & Yang, 2020). This report provides an overview of research addressing the phases of principal development following completion of the preparation program (see Principal Preparation Overview for information on pre-service training).

Principal Licensing and Certification Systems

Candidates intending to become school principals progress through several stages of professional development. The administrative credential, or license, which signals entry-level educator competence in leadership, is required in all 50 states (Scott, 2017). State licensing systems require the following (Gordon & Niemiec, 2020): (1) teaching experience, required by 37 states; (2) completion of an approved university-based or alternative preparation program (see Principal Preparation Overview), required by all 50 states; (3) field experience, required by 38 states; (4) a master’s degree in educational leadership or a related field, required by 37 states; and (5) passing of a state licensure assessment of knowledge and skills needed to be a principal, required by 33 states.

            Hackman (2016) notes that, in some cases, states grant licensure based solely on successfully passing an administrator exam and, in fewer cases, allow those lacking a license to work as principals. Graduates earning licenses typically then apply for and move into administrative positions to become assistant principals and eventually principals; however, many complete advanced degrees and licensure for other reasons (e.g., to earn higher salaries) without intending to pursue administrative roles (DeAngelis & O’Connor, 2012). Initial licensure represents entry-level skills and knowledge, and most states now utilize a two-tiered system that includes requirements and evaluation for advanced licensure, such as completion of an induction program and continuing professional development (Roach et al., 2011; Vogel & Weiler, 2014).

            States typically mandate license renewal every 5 years based on semester hour credits or continuing education units (CEUs) related to professional development centered on school improvement and student achievement (Roach et al., 2011). Effective principal licensure systems can “help steer principals toward professional development that is tied to important skill sets or knowledge…[and]…serve broader strategic goals rather than simply creating new sets of boxes for principals to check off as ‘done’” (Manna, 2014, p. 37). However, little is known about the impact of different licensure systems on principal effectiveness (Grissom et al. 2019).

Role of Advanced Degrees in Licensure and Professional Development

The research evidence on the influence of advanced degrees on principal effectiveness is mixed (Grissom et al., 2021). Several studies conducted in the 1990s that examined the importance of principals holding advanced degrees (master’s or doctoral) in educational administration found no evidence that these degrees were related to any measures of school effectiveness (Haller et al., 1997), and, in fact, the degrees were associated with negative performance ratings by teachers (Ballou & Podgursky, 1995). However, most states continue to require advanced degrees for principal licensure, as described by Cheney and Davis (2011), who discussed the weaknesses of state licensure systems:

In setting these requirements states are assuming that a master’s degree is needed to do the job effectively. Yet there is little indication that time in a university classroom is necessary or sufficient for preparing principals for the myriad responsibilities and challenges they face when leading schools. We have no evidence that a master’s degree correlates with principal effectiveness, and yet the master’s degree requirement grants monopoly power to universities, limiting the expansion of a more diverse set of providers, including nonprofits and school districts. (p. 18)

            Grissom and Harrington (2010) also found that principals who invested in university coursework as a professional development strategy were rated as less effective by teachers, and schools led by these principals passed fewer state and district standards. Young et al. (2008) found that a principal’s educational level did not predict student achievement; however, another study, by Valentine and Prater (2011), found that increasing levels of principal education were significantly related to positive student achievement outcomes. In a study of predictors of student achievement, Bastian and Henry (2015) determined that different kinds of master’s degrees produced similar achievement growth, but some types of doctoral degrees, particularly those earned at private institutions, were associated with less growth.

Importance of Standards

All 50 states have developed or adopted school leadership standards as part of their licensure systems (Educational Testing Service [ETS], 2021). In 1996, the Interstate School Leadership Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) developed national educational leadership standards that were widely adopted by schools across the country (Goldring et al., 2009). Research subsequently demonstrated that use of these standards was found in high-quality, effective principal preparation programs (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007). These standards were revised and updated in 2015 as the Professional Standards for Education Leaders (PSEL) to “guide professional practice and how practitioners are prepared, hired, developed, supervised and evaluated” (National Policy Board for Educational Administration, 2015, p. 2). Educational leadership standards, which are critical for fostering principal development, have evolved over time to emphasize principals as instructional leaders in their buildings (Canole & Young, 2013; Hackman, 2016). Still, there is little evidence that standards are incorporated into licensing requirements consistently across states (Adams & Copland, 2005; Vogel & Weiler, 2014). The PSEL standards are shown in the table below.

Table 1

Professional standards for educational leaders


Adapted from National Policy Board for Educational Administration, 2015, p. 27.

            Standards are important for professional development more generally. Principal professional development is often highly variable and determined by where principals work (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007); this inconsistency is due, in part, to a lack of common standards (Darling-Hammond et al., 2010). Rowland (2017) recommended that states adopt PSEL to guide their work with districts as they structure principals’ professional development. Districts, in turn, can engage local stakeholders as they align their current standards with PSEL to ensure that professional development is based on the latest research on best practice (Rowland, 2017). Scott (2018) noted that 10 states had adopted PSEL standards, with the remaining states instituting their own standards (many of which closely resemble PSEL).

Licensure Assessment

As noted previously, most states include satisfactory completion of initial licensure exams as part of their credentialing system to determine whether candidates have the competencies necessary to perform tasks that enable school success (Anderson & Reynolds, 2015). All but 15 states and the District of Columbia currently incorporate a licensure exam in their systems; the remaining 35 states use either a state-designed exam or an exam designed for broad use nationally by companies such as ETS or Pearson (Gordon & Niemiec, 2020). The most commonly used national exam is the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA), a 4-hour computer-based standardized test consisting of multiple-choice and constructed response (apply knowledge/skills to real-world situations or tasks) questions designed to assess candidates’ knowledge and skills related to professional educational leadership standards (Anderson & Reynolds, 2015; Grissom et al., 2017). In 2018, SLLA was revised to align with PSEL standards and is currently in use in 14 states and the District of Columbia (Gordon & Niemiec, 2020). Some states also contract with companies to design tests to meet the state’s desired instrument format, content, and process, such as the Massachusetts Performance Assessment for Leaders (PAL) developed by Pearson (Gordon & Niemiec, 2020; Orr et al., 2018). These tests may be written exams or, in some cases, performance based (Orr et al., 2018).

Licensing exams have come under some criticism by researchers due to a lack of positive impact on principal retention (Fuller & Young, 2009) and a lack of relationship with job performance (Grissom et al., 2017). In an analysis of SLLA data in Tennessee, Grissom and colleagues found that non-White candidates scored significantly lower than White candidates and were less likely to achieve the required state licensing score; however, SLLA was not predictive of principal job performance as defined by principal supervisor ratings, student achievement data, and teacher survey data (Grissom et al., 2017). Principals with higher scores were more likely to be hired as principals, and the researchers suggested that “failure to obtain the required cut score may be an important barrier to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in a principal workforce that is overwhelmingly White” (Grissom et al., 2017, p. 273). Indeed, 80% of principals are White (Taie & Goldring, 2019), and research has documented inequitable pathways to the principalship by race and gender; for example, Black assistant principals are less likely to be promoted than their White counterparts (Bailes & Guthery, 2020; Davis et al., 2017; Fuller et al., 2019).

A recent research project had an expert panel of educational leadership professionals recommend elements of transformative (i.e., cutting-edge) principal licensure systems with the potential to maximize principal effectiveness (Gordon & Niemiec, 2020). In addition to the traditional requirements often included in licensure systems (e.g., teaching experience, master’s degree, field experience embedded in coursework, internship, criminal background check, preparation program endorsement, and issuing of a renewable certificate), the panel recommended the use of an assessment exam based on national standards such as PSEL and capable of measuring “higher-level capacities that integrate knowledge, skills, and dispositions” (Gordon & Niemiec, 2020, p. 110). The panel discouraged written exams that included primarily multiple-choice questions and instead recommended the use of constructed responses to scenarios, videos, and short case studies.

The panel and others with expertise advocated that transformative licensure assessment systems include ways of measuring candidates’ competencies in multiple assessment contexts (e.g., online, university or PK–12 school campus, statewide assessment system), supplementing exams with methods such as performance-based assessment and portfolios that include items such as videos, reports, interviews, and journals, to fully capture a candidate’s capacity to perform school leadership work effectively (Anderson & Reynolds, 2015; Gordon, 2020; Gordon & Niemiec, 2020). It was also important for states to ensure that licensure assessment systems, particularly those including high-stakes exams, were bias-free and equitable for all cultural groups. Gordon (2020) noted that this was an understudied but critical issue, and that “equity research will need to be carried out not only on the development and use of assessment instruments but also, following licensure assessment, in school districts (e.g., research on hiring decisions, principal performance, and principal retention in relationship to licensure assessment results)” (p. 71).

Once principals attain licensure and a principalship, professional development continues in the form of in-service learning through induction processes at the outset of tenure, and continued professional learning to maintain initial licensure (Steinberg & Yang, 2020). This continued learning is important, as research suggests that principals receiving in-service professional development are more likely to remain at their schools than those not receiving it (Goldring & Taie, 2014; Jacob et al., 2015; Steinberg & Yang, 2020).

Principal Induction

The first few years of principalship determine whether principals acquire the competencies and confidence necessary to perform their roles or leave their positions (Shoho & Barnett, 2010). Given that the average tenure of a school principal at a given school is 4 years (Taie & Goldring, 2017), many new principals may not receive adequate support to enhance their competencies and confidence in their roles, and instead are expected to “hit the ground running” (Shoho & Barnett, 2010). Principal induction is “a multidimensional process that orients new principals to a school and school system while strengthening their knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be an educational leader” (Villani, 2006, p. 19).

Little in the way of systematic evidence is available regarding the efficacy of in-service induction programs, (Manna, 2015; Rowland, 2017). One exception is the New Leaders’ Aspiring Principals Program, an alternative certification program that recruits and trains aspiring principals who then serve in urban high-need schools. The program provides the core elements of selective recruitment and admission, residency-based training, and early tenure endorsement and support (Gates et al., 2014). It also heavily invests in induction processes during residency, such as job-embedded coaching and building peer support networks. Researchers found that students in schools led by program graduates were more likely to attend school and made significantly larger achievement gains in reading and math than students at schools led by non-program principals, and that program principals were more likely to be retained (Burkhauser et al., 2012; Gates et al., 2014, 2019). Steinberg and Yang (2020) demonstrated that Pennsylvania’s Inspired Leadership Induction Program increased principal tenure by 18%, although the program had no impact on teacher effectiveness or student achievement.

Recommended practices for induction programs, drawn from related research and experts in the area, can also be found in the literature. For example, listening to and considering multiple perspectives help adults recognize and solidify their own values and beliefs, and deepen their inquiry and discovery (Drago-Severson, 2008). Principal induction programs should include socialization opportunities, offering new principals an opportunity to share challenges and insights as they learn from and with peers (Fusarelli et al., 2018). New principals benefit from collaborative learning structures, such as professional learning communities (PLCs) or cohorts, to help them be less isolated in their roles (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007; Sutcher et al., 2017). Prior to the first year of principalship, high-quality summer induction programs can help principals prepare to welcome staff and students, as described by NYC Leadership Academy (n.d.):

We believe this should include a learning experience through which principals can apply role-playing, analysis and decision-making in an authentic way. Simulations are a powerful tool to help aspiring principals develop key skills and engage in hands-on work that mirrors real-life experience. Summer induction should also include a combination of “just-in-time” technical information (key policies, systems, timelines, etc.), introductions to the district-level people they can go to for help with various issues (HR, finance, etc.), and the development of a vision and entry plan for their new role.

            Induction programs typically include ongoing professional development sessions throughout the first year to engage new principals with desired district content (e.g., school improvement planning), provide further opportunities for collegiality and networking, and pair new principals with mentors and coaches to provide support (Shoho & Barnett, 2010).

Principal Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring, which are frequently included in principal induction programs, offer non-evaluative and confidential support, and can help school leaders better understand their work and help them succeed in their roles (Lochmiller, 2014). Indeed, coaching and mentoring are considered to be key features of effective principal professional development (Turnbull et al., 2013). The two terms are often used interchangeably, but coaching generally occurs over a specific period of time, targeting a specific set of skills (Grissom & Harrington, 2010); mentoring, on the other hand, typically describes guidance and support specifically for new principals (Rowland, 2017). Coaching and mentoring are consistent with all aspects of supporting adult learning (Knowles et al., 2005), and are essential to facilitate transfer of new learning to the school setting and ultimately to sustain changes to practice (Desimone & Pak, 2017; Kraft et al., 2018; Southern Regional Education Board, 2007; Zepeda, 2013).

A mentor for a novice principal is often an “experienced principal from another in-district school, a central office administrator with experience as a principal, or a retired principal” (Gordon, 2020, p. 75). Effective mentors for new principals share their expertise and help new educators reflect on their practice (Mendels, 2016), as well as “help candidates link their experiences to the theories and problem-based activities they learn in their coursework” (Sutcher et al., 2017, p. 10). Mentoring programs provide opportunities for sharing information and practices between novice principals and those with more experience, thus enhancing leadership capacity in a district through job-embedded professional development (Browne-Ferrigno & Muth, 2004). Mentors themselves often experience significant benefits in mentoring novice principals, such as increased career development opportunities, job and personal satisfaction, capacity for self-reflection, and networking opportunities (Dukess, 2001; Ehrich et al., 2004; Hansford & Ehrich, 2006).

Many studies provide research support for the use of coaching and/or mentoring strategies for fostering principal development. One randomized study of leadership coaching of urban principals in a large district found that coaching significantly enhanced principals’ capacity to communicate with teachers about instructional practice and enabled their ability to enact instructional leadership behaviors (Bickman et al., 2012). Grissom and Harrington (2010) found that teachers rated principals participating in formal mentoring or coaching programs as much more effective than those taking university courses for professional development. Recent data found that fewer principals reported taking university courses as a mode of professional development (Lavigne et al., 2016; Lewis & Scott, 2020; Taie & Goldring, 2019). Other coaching models, while lacking empirical research support, include components demonstrated to be effective in a logic model (Herman et al., 2017). For example, Lee (2010) found that district coaching that included principal-coach participation in professional development as well as individual leadership coaching helped both novice and experienced principals become more learner centered.

Goldring et al. (2009) found that shifting the focus of the principal supervisor’s role from compliance to instructional leadership and principal support (through one-on-one coaching and peer observations) resulted in more positive and productive principal-supervisor relationships. School districts, in fact, are exploring such a shift from compliance to ongoing job-embedded professional support (Drucker et al., 2019; Rainey & Honig, 2015). However, several studies suggest that trusting relationships and the sharing of confidential information between principals and coaches are made easier when coaches are from outside the principal’s district (Bloom et al., 2005; Wise & Jacobo, 2010). These findings suggest the need for caution in having principal supervisors provide direct coaching to the principals they supervise (Klar & Huggins, 2020).

Coaching and mentoring are most effective when certain features and program components are in place. Ensuring a good match between mentor and mentee is important, and districts often attempt to make matches based on characteristics such as demographics, geography, or other similar personal characteristics (Alsbury & Hackmann, 2006). New principals benefit in terms of leadership development and capacity to enact shared leadership and innovation when they have a similar educational philosophy and experience as their mentors; poor matches resulted in discussion topics that were restricted to school management rather than broader topics such as curriculum innovation and shared leadership (Oplatka & Lapidot, 2018). New principals need to build their capacity to self-reflect, and they can facilitate that reflection through active listening, asking insightful questions, presenting alternative views, and sharing feedback (Hall, 2008).

The Wallace Foundation (2007, 2008) identified five components of effective coaching/mentoring programs: (1) formal selection criteria for mentors, (2) formal training of mentors, (3) purposeful and strategic assignment of mentees, (4) mentor compensation through financial means or professional growth opportunities, and (5) program design that develops the growth of both mentor and mentee. Simon et al. (2019) added that mentoring should not focus solely on the principal’s technical needs, but should also attend to his or her health and well-being, and that the mentor should facilitate a new principal’s professional networking with other school leaders, including new principals. Mentors should also be aware that their mentees are working in a unique context, and take care not to assume that strategies and techniques that have worked in the past can be used as prescriptions for new principals (Gordon, 2020). Instead, “assistance to the new principal should take the form of co-inquiry to frame and solve problems being experienced by the novice” (Gordon, 2020, p. 76).

While state education leaders increasingly prioritize coaching and mentoring as key components of principal professional development, a review of ESSA shows that these initiatives are devoted primarily to novice principals and those in need of substantial improvement (Riley & Meredith, 2017). Daresh (2007) found that principals were able to shift from a focus on managerial competence to instructional leadership only after at least 2 to 3 years of mentoring support. Evidence suggests that even experienced principals need continuous, job-embedded professional development support such as coaching as they face various challenges throughout their career (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007; Sutcher et al., 2017).

In-Service Principal Professional Development

Principals need high-quality professional learning opportunities to build their leadership capacity, including ongoing training to update their skills and knowledge, individualized support through mentoring and coaching, and peer networks that encourage colleagues to share and brainstorm problems of practice (Jacob et al., 2015; Tekleselassie & Villareal, 2011). This report provides descriptive information regarding the status of principal professional development in the United States, followed by a discussion of evidence-based practices.

Need for High-Quality Effective Professional Development

Professional learning for school leaders, while often more intensively focused earlier in the career, continues to some extent throughout a principal’s career and may involve continued professional development, conference attendance, and coaching or mentoring (Herman et al., 2017). Recent data suggest that fewer than one-third of districts report using Title II funds—provided by the federal government in the form of subgrants to local education agencies (LEAs) to improve the quality of teachers and administrators—for principal professional development (U.S. Department of Education, 2015), and even when principals receive this training it is often designed for teachers rather than school leaders (Rowland, 2017). Professional development for principals often uses the “sit and get” workshop format (Ikemoto et al., 2014), and is frequently centered on the what of district reform rather than the how of leading school improvement (School Leaders Network, 2014). For example, Clifford and Mason (2013) found that while many principals attended training sessions on standards, curriculum, and assessment for the Common Core, they reported that the sessions did not address leadership tasks and failed to provide guidance on specifically how to make changes to incorporate the standards in their buildings.

            Sutcher et al. (2017) conducted a review of the literature on the elements of high-quality principal development related to improved school outcomes such as increased principal and teacher retention and student learning; they concluded that program content should include topics such as leadership to manage change, ways to create collegial environments, whole child education, and increasing equitable outcomes for students. Effective principal development further includes “authentic, job-embedded professional learning opportunities, including applied learning experiences, individualized support from mentors or coaches, and networking structures such as professional learning communities (PLCs)” (Levin et al., 2020, p. 2).

            A national survey of elementary school principals revealed that a substantial majority (at least 80%) reported access to professional learning that included research-based content; however, far fewer reported participating in authentic, job-embedded professional learning such as regularly shared leadership practices with peers (32%), working with a mentor or coach (23%), and regular participation in a PLC (56%). Further analysis showed that just 10% of principals in high-poverty elementary schools reported having a mentor or coach within the past 2 years. Additionally, more than four in five (84%) reported barriers to pursuing professional development, such as insufficient coverage for leaving the building, and lacking money for training. The above findings by Levin et al. (2020) are troublesome, particularly as research shows that principals need continuous training and development that is personalized to their context, combined with time to reflect on and refine practice (Coggshall, 2015).

Recent data from the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) describe the broad types of professional development reported by principals at all levels with at least 1 year of experience. While almost all principals reported attending workshops or conferences, only slightly more than half reported participating in coaching, mentoring, or peer observation (Lewis & Scott, 2020).

Figure 1

Percentage of principals participating in various kinds of professional development in 2017–2018, results from the National Teacher and Principal Survey

Adapted from Lewis and Scott, 2020

            These NTPS data, which covered a larger sample of principals, are generally consistent with the findings reported above by Levin and colleagues (2020). Just over half of principals reported participating in mentoring or coaching, although this is a research-supported professional development strategy. Two-thirds visited other schools to improve their work, but few reported taking university courses related to their role. In-service university coursework as professional development has been shown through research to have a negative impact on teachers’ perceptions of principal effectiveness and actual school outcomes (Grissom & Harrington, 2010). These two studies together suggest the need for extending authentic and job-embedded experiences as part of professional development programs more frequently and to greater numbers of principals throughout the country.

Research Base for Effective In-Service Professional Development

Despite the substantial evidence base for principal mentoring and coaching, only about half of principals have access to such job-embedded professional learning, making this an area for improvement (Grissom & Harrington, 2010; Turnbull et al, 2013). Slightly more than three-quarters of principals in the NTPS data reported being involved in a principal network, a widely advocated professional development strategy (Sutcher et al., 2017). Networks meet regularly and address common problems of practice, allowing principals to share best practices and to problem solve (Sutcher et al., 2017). One practice related to networks involves the use of instructional rounds, in which “school leaders identify a problem of practice specific to student learning and then work with a network of administrators and educators across the district to determine the root causes of the problem through observation, analysis, and dialogue” (Rowland, 2017, p. 6). Together they collaborate to identify strategies and next steps to address the problem, meeting regularly to help principals hone their thinking and practice (City et al., 2009).

            Similar to networks, PLCs are used as a form of principal professional development. They involve “district and school leaders work[ing] together to set common goals, learn new skills, and coach one another” (Psencik & Brown, 2018, p. 50). Psencik and Brown found that PLCs enhanced school leadership skills, fostered coherent leadership across the district, and created trusting relationships that enabled collaborative problem solving. Networks and PLCs are examples of adult learning strategies that support the desires of many educational leaders to learn from each other, and working on common problems in the company of other educational leaders is a strategy that is almost universally motivating for participants (Yoon et al., 2007; Zepeda, 2013).

While there is evidence that coaching and networking are effective principal development strategies, high-quality, rigorous research designs examining professional development programs that incorporate these and other strategies are largely missing from the literature (Rowland, 2017). Several exceptions that meet ESSA requirements for high-quality research are described below.

Large-Scale Professional Development Initiatives

McREL Balanced Leadership Program. This program is designed to provide research-based guidance in the form of 21 key leadership responsibilities that help principals become more effective and improve their capacity to enhance student achievement (Jacob et al., 2015). These 21 leadership responsibilities were originally derived from a meta-analysis of leadership studies conducted over a 30-year period (Waters et al., 2003) and have been confirmed through subsequent research (Miller et al., 2016; Robinson et al., 2008). The professional learning and coaching program not only includes an explanation of what and how to accomplish these leadership actions, but also devotes time to helping principals understand why they are essential and when to fulfill them for maximum positive impact (McREL International, 2021).

            The cohort-based program includes ten 2-day workshops over a 2-year period, with principals applying learned strategies between sessions and reflecting on these applications with trainers and other principals in their cohort (Miller et al., 2016). While internal evaluations have consistently demonstrated effectiveness, a recent randomized control trial study of rural schools in Michigan showed that the program reduced principal and teacher turnover and improved principal efficacy, but failed to impact student achievement or teacher reports of instructional climate (Jacob, et al., 2015).

            A subsequent randomized control study also demonstrated significantly greater self-reported growth in principal efficacy for instructional leadership, school norms for teacher collaboration and differentiated instruction, and reported capacity to manage change for balanced leadership as opposed to matched comparison group principals (Miller et al., 2016). However, balanced leadership principals did not report “growth in practices that involved them directly in teachers’ work around curriculum, instruction, and assessment” (Miller et al., 2016, p. 559). The researchers noted that professional development programs that involved principals working more directly with teachers had the capacity to demonstrate more direct results with teaching and learning.

National Institute for School Leadership Executive Development Program. The National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) provides professional development to aspiring and current school leaders to equip them in effectively setting direction and supporting teachers, and in designing a high-performing system rooted in professional learning (Nunnery et al., 2010). The program emphasizes principals’ strategic thinking: how they can effectively coach teachers, and how they can drive and sustain school transformation. The program structure includes in-person and virtual coursework, and emphasizes interactive learning through “simulations, case studies, school evaluations, and online activities” (Nunnery et al., 2010, p. 6).

            Several high-quality studies yielded significant positive achievement results in K–12 schools in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania (Nunnery et al., 2010, 2011). They also demonstrated that the program was well implemented and a more cost-effective option than other forms of professional development. Subsequent case study and survey research has shown that principals believed the program enhanced their ability to conceptualize and lead school improvement. They also reported highly valuing NISL coaches with whom the principals brainstormed and problem solved, and that they would highly recommend the program to colleagues (Wang et al., 2019).

Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington. Hermann et al (2019) examined the impact of a wide-scale principal professional development program focused on instructional leadership, in particular, principal capacity to conduct structured observations of classroom instruction and provide teachers with targeted feedback. The program, offered by the Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington, provided 188 hours of professional development for principals of 100 lower performing elementary schools. It included an in-person summer institute and in-person trainings, quarterly virtual professional learning community meetings, and individualized coaching across a 2-year period; approximately half of the hours were dedicated to individualized coaching. Results showed little change to principal practice, and the program failed to impact either teacher retention or student achievement.

Summary and Conclusions

Principals create school conditions that enable high-quality teaching and learning. Effective professional development programs and processes are essential for equipping principals with the knowledge and skills needed to create these conditions. Supports to keep them in the profession are also critical. However, continuing professional development and support for principals are often overlooked by districts and states, and, even when provided, may not be evidence based.

Licensing and certification systems represent entry-level knowledge and skills, and principals must continue with professional development across their careers in order to maintain licensure. While many states require a master’s degree to obtain licensure, this practice has not been supported by research. Licensure systems are linked to standards for effective school leadership preparation and development in all 50 states; the Professional Standards for Education Leaders represent the most current research on what is known about an effective principalship, and include emphases on creating equitable schools and inclusive and supportive school communities. In recent years, licensure assessment exams have been criticized as ineffective in predicting principal performance and biased against candidates of color. Transformative licensure assessment systems incorporate multiple methods of evaluating competencies, such as portfolios and performance-based assessments, and ensure these systems are bias-free and equitable.

High-quality principal induction simultaneously orients new principals to the school setting while strengthening their knowledge and skills through supportive structures. Effective induction programs, such as the one offered as part of the New Leaders’ Aspiring Principals Program, have been shown to improve principal retention and student achievement. Socialization is important for new principals to discuss challenges and successes with peers, and collaborative learning structures such as professional learning communities can support new learning as well as socialization.

Mentors and coaches for novice principals are essential aspects of high-quality induction programs. Mentors, who are usually experienced principals, share their expertise and encourage reflection by new principals as they face the challenges of school leadership; they also help new principals connect what they have learned in their preparation program to their new experiences on the job. While providing this job-embedded professional support, mentors themselves often benefit in multiple ways. Coaching and mentoring—in both induction and ongoing professional development—are solidly supported by research. Some districts are exploring shifting the role of principal supervisor to serve as coach rather than compliance officer, although further research is needed to determine this practice’s effectiveness. Important features of effective coaching and mentoring programs include a good match between mentor and mentee; formal selection and training of and compensation for mentors; and programs that extend beyond the first year of the principalship.

In-service professional development continues throughout the careers of principals as they seek to maintain licensure and ensure that their knowledge and skills are sufficient for addressing students’ needs in their particular school context. However, the professional development in which principals participate often is inconsistent with what is known about how adults learn best, and fails to provide the meaningful and authentic job-embedded learning and support shown to be effective. Coaching and mentoring, for example, are currently provided to only approximately half of the country’s principals despite being supported through high-quality research evidence. Principal networks and professional learning communities, which are more commonly used as a professional development strategy, offer principals a chance to form collegial relationships and learn from peers, as well as work together on common problems of practice.

While certain components of principal professional development such as coaching and mentoring are well supported by research, the field lacks rigorous research support as a whole. Several recent studies, however, have examined the effectiveness of comprehensive principal professional development programs using randomized designs that meet ESSA requirements for high-quality research, with mixed results. The National Institute for School Leadership Executive Development Program, for example, demonstrated improvements to student achievement as well as evidence of cost-effectiveness, while a program offered by the Center for Leadership at the University of Washington showed little impact on principal practice.

In conclusion, while research has highlighted the necessary components of principal professional development, evidence suggests that there is much room for improvement in developing licensure systems that provide an accurate gauge of whether a principal is ready to take on his or her new role, and in advancing induction and continued professional development programs that incorporate authentic, job-embedded learning.



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A Research-Informed Design for Preparing Principals: What We Could Do Differently and Why It Might Work

This paper explores an alternative principal development program that combines the development of shared leadership and individual leaders as schools pursue their learning-improvement agendas.

Bellamy, T. (2015). A Research-Informed Design for Preparing Principals: What We Could Do Differently and Why It Might Work Retrieved from ../../uploads/docs/2015WingSummitTB.pdf.


Data Mining

What percentage of new teachers receive induction services?
This probe examines the increasing use of teacher induction as a tool for offering new teachers training and support.
Keyworth, R. (2011). What percentage of new teachers receive induction services? Retrieved from what-percentage-of-new.
What areas do principals express as needing additional support?
This analysis examines principal's need for additional support and training based upon the North Carolina Working Conditions Survey.
States, J. (2014). What areas do principals express as needing additional support? Retrieved from what-areas-do-principals.



A Research-Informed Design for Preparing Principals: What We Could Do Differently and Why It Might Work
This paper explores an alternative principal development program that combines the development of shared leadership and individual leaders as schools pursue their learning-improvement agendas.
Bellamy, T. (2015). A Research-Informed Design for Preparing Principals: What We Could Do Differently and Why It Might Work [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2015-wing-presentation-tom-bellamy.
Installing Tier 2/3 Behavior Supports in Schools: The Principal's Role
This paper describes the development, content and delivery of a professional development course for Principals regarding their role in multi-tiered systems of school-wide positive behavior supports.
Eber, L. (2015). Installing Tier 2/3 Behavior Supports in Schools: The Principal's Role [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2015-wing-presentation-lucille-eber.
Now What? The Current State of Principal Preparation, Evaluation, and Support
This paper examines the current state of principal development in the context of best practices, including: evidence-based curriculum, well-trained instructors, effective coaching, and ongoing feedback and support.
Keyworth, R. (2015). Now What? The Current State of Principal Preparation, Evaluation, and Support [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2015-calaba-presentation-randy-keyworth.
Principal Leadership and Why It Matters
This paper outlines what we know from both the research and the field in terms of principal leadership. It addresses the research and implementation challenges of developing effective principals.
McNulty, B. (2015). Principal Leadership and Why It Matters [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2015-wing-presentation-brian-mcnulty.
Principals as Agents of Change
The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of principals in building quality schools. The presentation analyzes those critical skills required of an effective principal.
States, J. (2012). Principals as Agents of Change [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2012-aba-presentation-jack-states.
A Framework for Principal Talent Management

The Bush Institute’s new studies look at effective ways to evaluate principal preparation and describe policies to get, support, and keep great principals.

A Framework for Principal Talent Management. (2016). Dallas, Texas: George W. Bush Institute. Retrieved from

Change Agents: How States Can Develop Effective School Leaders

This report highlights the very important role that states play in cultivating principal leadership talent. This paper speaks concern about improving human resources management at the state and district levels, doing quality control at the entry requirements, and give states tools and strategies to re-frame policies to bolster the principal talent pipeline. 

Change Agents: How States Can Develop Effective School Leaders. (2013). New York: New Leaders. Retrieved from  

Research Findings to Support effective Educational policymaking: Evidence& Action Steps for State, District & Local Policymakers

This paper offer a number of research findings and action steps drawn from policies and practices that have been shown to be critical to the success of educational reforms at the local, district and state levels.

Research Findings to Support effective Educational policymaking: Evidence& Action Steps for State, District & Local Policymakers. (2009). New York: The Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from:

The Future Ready District: Professional Learning Through Online Communities of Practice and Social Networks to Drive Continuous Improvement

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology published this brief that summarizes research on the role of online communities of practice and social networks in supporting the professional performance of educators.

U.S. Department of Education. (2014, November). The Future Ready District: Professional Learning Through Online Communities of Practice and Social Networks to Drive Continuous Improvement. Retrieved from

Techniques in the clinical supervision of teachers

Intended as a text, this book emphasizes practical techniques of clinical supervision in working with teachers to help them improve their classroom teaching. It is divided into four units. The first provides necessary background for understanding techniques of clinical supervision. The next two units describe specific techniques for conducting clinical conferences and collecting observation data.

Acheson, K. A., & Gall, M. D. (1980). Techniques in the Clinical Supervision of Teachers. Preservice and Inservice Applications. Longman, Inc., 19 W. Forty-Fourth St., New York, NY 10036.

Principal Talent Management According to the Evidence: A Review of the Literature

This literature review aims to provide district leaders with an understanding of the research and best evidence regarding the components of effective principal talent management systems.

American Institutes for Research & George W. Bush Institute’s. (2016). Principal Talent Management According to the Evidence: A Review of the Literature. Retrieved from

Building a stronger principalship: Volume 4: Evaluating and supporting principals

This report addresses the implementation of principal evaluation and related support as of 2015, viewing implementation in the context of districts’ aims, constraints, and capacity. Principal evaluation is part of the Wallace Principal Pipeline Initiative design, intended both as a means of assessing novice principals’ performance against clear standards and as a roadmap for tailoring professional development and one-on-one support to identified areas of need.

Anderson, L. M., & Turnbull, B. J. (2016). Evaluating and Supporting Principals. Building a Stronger Principalship: Volume 4. Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

School leadership stability, principal moves, and departures: Evidence from Missouri

The objective of this study is to investigate and characterize principals' backgrounds, individual and school level factors associated with leadership stability, and principal career paths and exit behaviors in Missouri. 

Baker, B. D., Punswick, E., & Belt, C. (2010). School leadership stability, principal moves, and departures: Evidence from Missouri. Educational Administration Quarterly46(4), 523-557.

The Impacts of Principal Turnover

Using statewide data from Missouri and Tennessee, we employ a difference-in-differences model with a matched comparison group to estimate arguably causal effects.

Bartanen, B., Grissom, J. A., & Rogers, L. K. (2019). The impacts of principal turnover. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 41(3), 350–374.

Principal Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2008-09 Principal Follow-Up Survey. First Look.

In order to inform discussions and decisions among policymakers, researchers, and parents, the 2008-09 Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS) was initiated as a nationally representative sample survey of public, private, and Bureau of Indian Education-funded (BIE) K-12 schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Battle, D. (2010). Principal Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2008-09 Principal Follow-Up Survey. First Look. NCES 2010-337. National Center for Education Statistics.

Returning to School Toolkit for Principals.

This toolkit is designed to help structure principal’s thinking about the return to school, in whatever form that takes. The toolkits is structured to point and direct administrators to where to find help. The guidelines offer context for the use of the tools and tip sheets, and suggestions for actions you might consider. 

Benton, K., Butterfield, K., Manian, N., Molina, M., Richel, M. (2020). Returning to School Toolkit for Principals. Rockville, MD: National Comprehensive Center at Westat.

Effects of the Missouri Career Ladder program on teacher mobility.

This paper seeks to estimate the effect that Career Leader (CL) program has had on teachers’ career decisions, specifically their decisions to stay in a specific school district or to remain in the teaching field.

Booker, K., & Glazerman, S. (2009). Effects of the Missouri Career Ladder program on teacher mobility. Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research.

What Do We Know About Principal Preparation, Licensure Requirements, and Professional Development for School Leaders?

CEELO reviewed data on 21 states’ principal licensure requirements, conducted structured interviews with experts on principal preparation and professional development in 7 states, and spoke with staff at the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Institute for School Leadership.

Brown, K. C., Squires, J., Connors-Tadros, L., & Horowitz, M. (2014). What do we know about principal preparation, licensure requirements, and professional development for school leaders. New Brunswick, NJ: Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes.

Laying the foundation for successful school leadership

Districts and states establish minimum eligibility requirements for individuals serving as principals in public schools. The intent of these requirements—which include mandated degrees, prior teaching and/or administrative experience, and certifications—is to ensure a minimum quality standard in the principal candidate pool.

Burkhauser, S., Gates, S. M., Hamilton, L. S., Li, J., & Pierson, A. (2013). Laying the foundation for successful school leadership. RAND.

Principal Concerns: Leadership Data and Strategies for States.

This report tells policymakers what metrics they must track in order to make the best decisions regarding the supply and training of school leaders.

Campbell, C., & Gross, B. (2012). Principal Concerns: Leadership Data and Strategies for States. Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Standards for educational leaders: An analysis
This project seeks to survey and document the knowledge and practice of districts and states that have
developed effective principal evaluation systems, and to share these success stories with others. This
grant-funded report is focused on improving principal evaluation, which is a major thrust of principal
pipeline initiatives.

Canole, M., & Young, M. (2013). Standards for educational leaders: An analysis. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.

A Qualitative Case Study of Teacher and School Leaders' Perspectives of Tennessee's Differentiated Pay Plans

The purpose of the study was to investigate the factors influencing school systems’ decisions behind crafting, developing, and revising differentiated pay plans that require districts to abandon the practice of providing only across-the-board salary increases for experience and advanced degrees by adding at least one additional criterion for compensating educators.

Chiang, H., Wellington, A., Hallgren, K., Speroni, C., Herrmann, M., Glazerman, S., & Constantine, J. (2015). Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and impacts of pay-for-performance after two years, Executive Summary (NCEE 2015-4021). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education

The concept of strategic leadership has been in the discourse of corporate governance and
management but in recent days, strategic leadership has become a concept in education
literature. Strategic leadership is also relevant in education more especially in a PK-12
educational setting.

Cobbinah, J. E. (2020). Barriers to Strategic Leadership in Education. In Strategic Leadership in PK-12 Settings (pp. 82-93). IGI Global.

Useful or useless? Principal perceptions of the Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System

Principal evaluations can be important tools for improving leadership practice, but evaluations have often described by principals and researchers as unsystematic and lacking timely and actionable feedback. This study examines principal perceptions of the Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System.

DeMatthews, D. E., Scheffer, M., & Kotok, S. (2020). Useful or useless? Principal perceptions of the Texas principal evaluation and support system. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 1942775120933920.

Education Leadership: A Bridge to School Reform

This report describes how Denver Public Schools hired people to coach and evaluate its principals.

DeVita, M., Colvin, R., Darling-Hammond, L., Haycock, K. (2007). Education Leadership: A Bridge to School Reform. The Wallace Foundation.

Principal evaluation under the elementary and secondary Every Student Succeeds act: A comprehensive policy review

A growing body of research recognizes the critical role of the school principal, demonstrating that school principals’ effects on student outcomes are second only to those of teachers. Yet policy makers have often paid little attention to principals, choosing instead to focus policy reform on teachers. In the last decade, this pattern has shifted somewhat.

Donaldson, M., Mavrogordato, M., Dougherty, S. M., Ghanem, R. A., & Youngs, P. (2021). Principal Evaluation under the Elementary and Secondary Every Student Succeeds Act: A Comprehensive Policy Review.

Exploring the Nature of Implementation of Principal Professional Development Programs: What are Mechanisms for School Change?

This paper explores the implementation of a professional development program (PDP) for school principals. Two methods for measuring fidelity of implementation of the PDP are examined

exploring the nature of implementatiion

Developing principals as instructional leaders

This paper describes a continuous learning model of principal and superintendent support. The model places a premium on engagement at all levels of the system on shaping a focused culture of instruction within their schools.

Fink, E., & Resnick, L. B. (2001). Developing principals as instructional leaders. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(8), 598-610.

A systematic review of studies of leadership models in educational research from 1980 to 2014.

The purpose of this study is to reveal the extent to which different leadership models in education are studied, including the change in the trends of research on each model over time, the most prominent scholars working on each model, and the countries in which the articles are based. 

Gümüş, S., Bellibaş, M. S., Esen, M., & Gümüş, E. (2018). A systematic review of studies of leadership models in educational research from 1980 to 2014. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 46(1), 25–48.

Radical recentering: Equity in educational leadership standards.

In this article, the authors put forth a new set of standards with equity at the core. They seek to advance the conversation about why standards centered on equity are needed—particularly in light of a proposed standards refresh—and what implications would follow from equity-focused standards.


Galloway, M. K., & Ishimaru, A. M. (2015). Radical recentering: Equity in educational leadership standards. Educational Administration Quarterly51(3), 372–408.

Using State-Level Policy Levers to Promote Principal Quality

Effective school leaders, particularly principals, are associated with better outcomes for students and schools. Principals help set school vision and culture, which support teacher effectiveness and ultimately can help improve student achievement.

Gates, S. M., Woo, A., Xenakis, L., Wang, E. L., Herman, R., Andrew, M., & Todd, I. (2020). Using State-Level Policy Levers to Promote Principal Quality: Lessons from Seven States Partnering with Principal Preparation Programs and Districts. RAND Principal Preparation Series. Volume 2. Research Report. RR-A413-1. RAND Corporation. PO Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138.

Developing Leaders: The Importance—and the Challenges—of Evaluating Principal Preparation Programs

The role of today's principal is changing, as is the principal workforce. The new generation of principals is younger with less teaching experience, and is more mobile, working more hours, and experiencing more job stress. Understanding how to better prepare new leaders for the role of principal is an urgent policy concern.

George W. Bush Institute, Education Reform Initiative, (2016). Developing Leaders: The Importance—and the Challenges—of Evaluating Principal Preparation Programs. Retrieved from

Chock Full of Data: How School Districts Are Building Leader Tracking Systems to Support Principal Pipelines. Stories from the Field

This Story From the Field examines how Denver and five other school districts have constructed and are using these systems as they seek to better train, hire and support school principals.

Gill, J. (2016). Chock Full of Data: How School Districts Are Building Leader Tracking Systems to Support Principal Pipelines. Stories from the Field. Wallace Foundation.

Make Room for the Principal Supervisors

This report describes how Denver Public Schools hired personnel to coach and evaluate its principals.

Gill, J., (2013). Make Room for the Principal Supervisors. The Wallace Foundation.

Changing the principal supervisor role to better support principals: Evidence from the Principal Supervisor Initiative

Principal supervisors are a potential point of leverage for supporting and developing principals' effectiveness, but little is known about the effectiveness of this approach. The overarching hypothesis of the PSI was that changing the role of principal supervisors from overseeing operations to developing principals' instructional leadership practices could drive improvement in principal effectiveness.

Goldring, E. B., Clark, M. A., Rubin, M., Rogers, L. K., Grissom, J. A., Gill, B., ... & Burnett, A. (2020). Changing the Principal Supervisor Role to Better Support Principals: Evidence from the Principal Supervisor Initiative. Mathematica.

Principals Younger and Freer, but Raise Doubts in the Schools

An analysis by The New York Times of the city’s signature report-card system shows that schools run by graduates of the celebrated New York City Leadership Academy — which the mayor created and helped raise more than $80 million for — have not done as well as those led by experienced principals or new principals who came through traditional routes.

Gootman, E., Gebeloff, R. (2009). Principals Younger and Freer, but Raise Doubts in the Schools. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Principal Licensure Exams and Future Job Performance: Evidence From the School Leaders Licensure Assessment

This paper investigate the most commonly used exam, the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA), using 10 years of data on Tennessee test takers. This paper found that although candidates with higher scores are more likely to be hired as principals, we find little evidence that SLLA scores predict measures of principal job performance, including supervisors’ evaluation ratings or teachers’ assessments of school leadership from a statewide survey.

Grissom, J. A., Mitani, H., & Blissett, R. S. (2017). Principal licensure exams and future job performance: Evidence from the School Leaders Licensure Assessment. Educational evaluation and policy analysis39(2), 248-280.

Ontario Leadership Framework 2012 with a discussion of the research foundations.

For purposes of the Ontario Leadership Framework (OLF), leadership is defined as the exercise of influence on organizational members and diverse stakeholders toward the identification and achievement of the organization’s vision and goals. For aspiring leaders, this framework provides important insights about what they will need to learn to be successful. Those already exercising leadership will find the framework a useful tool for self-reflection and self-assessment.

Leithwood, K. (2012). Ontario Leadership Framework 2012 with a discussion of the research foundations. Ottawa, Canada: Institute for Education Leadership.

Leadership coaching in an induction program for novice principals: A 3-year study

This article presents results from a study of leadership coaches who worked with novice principals in a university-based induction program for a 3-year period.

Lochmiller, C. R. (2014). Leadership coaching in an induction program for novice principals: A 3-year study. Journal of Research on Leadership Education9(1), 59–84.

Improving University Principal Preparation Programs: Five Themes from the Field

This publication seeks to help answer those questions by bringing together findings from four reports commissioned by The Wallace Foundation to inform its development of a potential new initiative regarding university-based principal training.

Mendels, P. (2016). Improving University Principal Preparation Programs: Five Themes from the Field. Wallace Foundation.

The principal as Human Capital Manager: Lessons from the Private Sector

This research suggests that the effectiveness of principals in managing the recruitment and advancement of teachers will contribute to improvements in student learning. One of the key ways these managers influence performance is through human capital management: the attraction, development and retention of the employee talent the organization needs.

Milanowski, A., & Kimball, S. (2010). The principal as human capital manager: Lessons from the private sector. Teaching talent: A visionary framework for human capital in education, 69-90.

The influence of salary in attracting and retaining school leaders.

This article examines the salary trajectory of teachers as they move up the career ladder into leadership positions.

Pijanowski, J. C., & Brady, K. P. (2009). The influence of salary in attracting and retaining school leaders. Education and Urban Society42(1), 25–41.

Principal Professional Development: New Opportunities for a Renewed State Focus

This brief describes: (1) The need for more and better principal professional development to improve principal effectiveness, decrease principal turnover, and more equitably distribute successful principals across all schools; (2) The research on the importance of principals and how professional development can improve principals' effectiveness; and (3) Options and examples for leveraging current policies to revisit and refocus efforts concerning principal professional development.

Rowland, C. (2017). Principal Professional Development: New Opportunities for a Renewed State Focus. Education Policy Center at American Institutes for Research.

Principal compensation and performance incentives. Guide to implementation: Resources for applied practice.

This module will not focus on the empirical challenges to developing measures of principal effectiveness and their accompanying reward systems, but rather will focus on what is known and will provide guidance on those issues upon which there is agreement.

Schuermann, P. J., Guthrie, J. W., Prince, C. D., & Witham, P. J. (2009). Principal compensation and performance incentives. Washington, DC: Center for Educator Compensation Reform, US Department of Education.

Lean on Me: Peer Mentoring for Novice Principals

This study focuses on the experiences of ten novice principals involved in a principal mentoring program in a large urban school district to examine the connections of theory and practice from training received in their administrative preparation program. It sought to understand the impact of receiving support and mentoring in retaining principals. Three themes emerged from the data: (1) the importance of networking with other principals, (2) individualized support with mentors, and (3) continuous development and professional growth. The research presented will contribute to the agenda of retaining quality administrators in the field.

Simieou, F., Decman, J., Grigsby, B., & Schumacher, G. (2010). Lean on me: Peer mentoring for novice principals. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 5(1), 1-9.

A Review of the Literature on Principal Turnover.

This paper examines research on what we know about the causes and impact of principal turnover.

Snodgrass Rangel, V. (2018). A review of the literature on principal turnover. Review of Educational Research88(1), 87-124.

Model principal supervisor professional standards

The lived experience of principal supervisors in Long Beach Unified School District consisted of an intentional and aligned system of principal evaluations, coaching, and principal supervisor professional learning community. Principal supervisors also identified practices such as increased visits to schools and classrooms with principals, central office departments focused on teaching and learning, and the traits of creating an environment of vulnerability and growth mindset as an important skill set.

Stringer, M. (2017). The 2015 Model Principal Supervisor Professional Standards: Transforming the Role of Principal Supervisors (Doctoral dissertation, Brandman University).

How does district principal evaluation affect learning cen­tered principal leadership

This study used Hierarchical Multivariate Linear models to investigate relationships between principals' behaviors and district principal evaluation purpose, focus, and assessed leadership activities in 13 school districts in Michigan. The study found that principals were more likely to engage in learning-centered leadership behaviors when the purposes of evaluation included principal professional development, school restructuring, and accountability; when the focus of evaluation was related to instructional leadership; and when evaluation addressed leadership in school goal setting, curriculum design, teacher professional development and evaluation, and monitoring student learning.

Sun, M., & Youngs, P. (2009). How does district principal evaluation affect learning-centered principal leadership? Evidence from Michigan school districts. Leadership and Policy in Schools8(4), 411-445.

Supporting principals’ learning: Key features of effective programs.

Effective preparation and professional development programs build the capacity of principals to lead across their full range of responsibilities, fostering school environments where adults and students thrive. Research points to several key building blocks of strong preparation and development programs. 

Sutcher, L., Podolsky, A., & Espinoza, D. (2017). Supporting principals’ learning: Key features of effective programs. Retrieved from

Charting a course for the professional growth and development of principals: Evaluation process

The T-PESS process incorporates a series of actions and activities that should be applied on an ongoing basis. While the T-PESS process results in your annual summary assessment, it's better to think of it as an annual process of activities that help you self-assess, establish performance goals, collect and analyze information, and provide constructive feedback, improving your quality and effectiveness as the school leader.

Texas Education Agency. (2019). Charting a course for the professional growth and development of principalsEvaluation process.

Designing Online Communities of Practice for Educators to Create Value

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology published this report that details the results of exploratory research on how to design and manage online communities of practice for educators.


U.S. Department of Education. (2014, April). Designing Online Communities of Practice for Educators to Create Value. Retrieved from

School Principals and School Performance
This paper uses data from New York City to estimate how the characteristics of school principals relate to school performance, as measured by students' standardized exam scores and other outcomes. There is little evidence of any relationship between school performance and principal education and pre-principal work experience, but some evidence that experience as an assistant principal at the principal's current school is associated with higher performance among inexperienced principals.
Clark, D., Martorell, P., & Rockoff, J. (2009). School Principals and School Performance. Working Paper 38. National Center for Analysis of longitudinal data in Education research.
Principal's Time Use And School Effectiveness
This paper conducts a time-use analysis of data gathered from observing high school principals in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Horng, E. L., Klasik, D., & Loeb, S. (2010). Principal's time use and school effectiveness. American Journal of Education, 116(4), 491-523.
The Making of the Principal-Five Lessons in Leadership Training
This Wallace Perspective plumbs foundation research and work in school leadership to identify five lessons for better training, including: more selective admission to training programs, a focus on instructional leadership and mentoring for new principals.
Mitgang, L. (2012). The Making of the Principal: Five Lessons in Leadership Training. Perspective. Wallace Foundation.
Assessing Learning-Centered Leadership: Connections to Research, Professional Standards, and Current Practices
Research shows that most assessments of school leaders are ineffective in gauging how leaders are - or are not - promoting learning. This Wallace Perspective describes a possible new direction, highlights new assessment instruments and discusses unknowns in using assessments to improve leadership and benefit students.
Portin, B. S. (2009). Assessing the effectiveness of school leaders: New directions and new processes. The Wallace Foundation
Getting Principal Mentoring Right: Lessons from the Field
Mentoring for new principals, once rare, is now required by half the nation’s states. That’s a major advance, but many programs are not yet tailored to developing principals who can drive better instruction, according to this Wallace analysis. The report looks at two school districts that stress mentoring - Jefferson County (Kentucky) and New York City -and proposes guidelines for effective mentoring.
Spiro, J., Mattis, M. C., & Mitgang, L. D. (2007). Getting principal mentoring right: Lessons from the field. Wallace Foundation.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
This organization develops and delivers innovative programs, products, and services to educators in support student learners with a focus on professional development support.
Center for Creative Leadership
The Center for Creative Leadership provides research, training, consultation, and support for schools to improve their leadership capacity.
Center for Educational Leadership
The Center for Educational Leadership provides research and training in teaching effectiveness and school leadership.
Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE)
CPRE looks at issues of teacher compensation, school finance, and principal evaluation for PK20.
Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
CCSSO is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues.
National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
NAESP is a professional organization serving elementary and middle school principals and other education leaders throughout the United States, Canada, and overseas.
National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)
NASSP is a professional organization serving secondary school principals and other education leaders throughout the United States, Canada, and overseas.
New Leaders
New Leaders is a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders and designs effective leadership policies and practices for school systems across the country.
School Leaders Network
School Leaders Network provides the structure for public school principals to work together in SLN Networks to solve real problems, across whole campuses, as opposed to teacher-by-teacher.
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