BEST PRACTICES FROM THE RESEARCH LITERATURE
Best Practice for principals: Focus on districts
- Align goals, strategies, structures and resources so that all staff members are working on increasing student achievement
- Create a sense of shared responsibility, balanced autonomy, and continuous learning and improvement
- Effectively manage and support principals, including through regular feedback and opportunities for development
- Give principals the authority and backing to manage the talent on their campuses
- Districts provide principals with increased autonomy in exchange for increased accountability for student learning—e.g., principals are able to make critical decisions about the types of curriculum and professional learning they provide to teachers while being held to more ambitious student growth targets at the school or student subgroup level
- Districts provide competitive salaries and incentives to help offset a challenging working environment and improve retention of school leaders in underserved schools and districts
Best Practices for principal preparation
- All components of the preparation program, including coursework and practicum, align with research-based competencies and the standards used in district hiring and evaluation
- Preparation includes a meaningful internship or residency experience, characterized by increasing levels of responsibility and autonomy as a result of demonstrated performance and engagement in instructional leadership, talent management, and organizational management
- Preparation coursework relies on hands-on methods that allow principal candidates to demonstrate their leadership skills, including: scenarios, simulation, case studies, role play and action research projects
- Preparation programs prioritize certain competencies and dispositions in their initial screening and interviewing of candidates, which include:
- Emotional intelligence,
- A commitment to remain in the principal role for a longer period of time,
- An understanding of culture and organizational behavior,
- An understanding of systemic change and change processes,
- An understanding of the importance of quality management and the use of feedback loops with teachers, and
- An understanding of how to make data-driven decisions
- Strong, sustainable district-program partnerships allow districts to take an active role in defining their leadership needs, setting expectations for the program, and aligning preparation with other leadership initiatives
- Preparation programs remain connected to program graduates in their first years on the job through mentoring/coaching or coordination of induction programs within districts
- Preparation programs form relationships with districts and states to maintain data on program graduates; relatedly, researchers are exploring methods to assess preparation program outcomes
- Preparation programs track districts’ hiring and assignment decisions to be responsive to local educational needs and collaborate with local education agencies on the matching of candidates with the communities and schools
Best practices for principal preparation: Recruiting
- Candidates are found who can master the set of skills, knowledge and dispositions that are defined in the Competency Framework.
- Expectations of the program’s mission, vision, culture, and expectations are articulated on the front end as a part of recruitment so that candidates can self-identify their likelihood of success in the program.
Best practices: Training and Development
- Training and development is experiential, giving trainees authentic opportunities to lead adults, make mistakes and grow.
- Each fellow has an Individual Learning Plan that takes into account strengths and weaknesses identified during the selection process.
- Fellows receive ongoing feedback from a mentor-principal, a coach, a cohort peer, and/or others.
Best practices: Supporting Principals
- New graduates are supported by helping them identify and secure job placements in schools with needs that best match up with their strengths.
- Ongoing professional development and ongoing coaching is provided to help them grow on the job.
- Some programs provide whole-school support in the form of leadership team trainings and school-wide evaluation of effectiveness.
- Some RLA programs have begun to engage at the district and state levels to influence policies and practices that can either help or hinder principals in their efforts to build and sustain successful schools.
Best practices: Program Evaluation
- RLA programs collect and monitor data on their graduates throughout the program period, starting as early as selection.
- RLA programs reach out to their alumni and instructors/mentors to collect feedback on the preparation and support provided by the program.
- Provide relevant and timely information on program graduates and alumni, including:
- feedback on program experiences, such as internship attributes
- assessment of what graduates learned through the program
- documentation of graduates’ career outcomes
- ascertainment of graduates’ influence on their schools
- Compare graduates’ experiences, for:
- different cohorts
- different program delivery options
- subgroups of graduates (such as by gender, race/ethnicity and experience)
- Provide evidence for state and national accreditation reports
- Compare program features and delivery type with other programs regionally and nationally
- Identify areas for program and course improvement
- Make the case for program resources and support
- Research the relationship between program design and delivery, graduate outcomes, and school improvement work
On-the-job evaluation and support for novice principals
- Leader Tracking System
- Key to building successful pipeline of qualified candidates
- System helps to forecast vacancies and identify mentors
- Collects information such as test scores of students, ratings by teachers, ratings by supervisors, specialized skills, educational background
- Principals can no longer function as building managers
- must shape a vision, cultivate leadership in others, create positive climate
- effective principals draw valuable information from statistics and evidence
- Efforts to improve principal evaluation process
- Using evaluation to help principals improve rather than to penalize them for shortcomings;
- Emphasizing both student achievement and sound principal work practices in the performance assessments;
- Encouraging regular conversations between principals and their supervisors; and
- Shifting the focus of the principal supervisor job from overseeing compliance with regulations to helping principals succeed as “instructional leaders.”