Principal Preparation and Pipelines
  • By admin
  • August 20, 2019

By Grace Shelton



A Tennessee-based organization, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), recently released an article on the importance of education leadership in reforming student outcomes. In this article, evidence from the RAND Corporation stood out: principals are second only to classroom instruction in contributing to student outcomes, principals are multipliers of effective teaching, principals are key to teacher retention, and principals are crucial to transforming “struggling schools”. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that placing high-quality and properly trained principals in the lowest performing schools is absolutely essential to school improvement. In fact, RAND discovered that improving and utilizing effective principal “pipelines” (ie. Preparation programs) can benefit all schools and is also extremely cost effective. The organization found that improving the use of principal pipelines can cost each district roughly .04% of annual budgets.

This is extremely pertinent information in today’s education climate. ESSA speaks to the importance of principals and other school leaders. In order to improve school equity through effective leadership, states like Tennessee are using important funds to improve pipelines and training programs.

Looking Further

The Wallace Foundation delved further into the importance of school leadership and examined whether or not principal preparation is deeply impacted by the use of principal supervisors. In their 2018 report, they found that while principal supervisors are important to supporting and developing high-quality principals, very few districts have invested in them. The Wallace Foundation’s study examined the impact of adjusting principal supervisory job descriptions through reducing the span of control and restructuring the roles and responsibilities of the central office in supporting supervisors. In doing this, researchers laid the groundwork for major change in supervisor roles. Now, principal supervisors were able to spend more time in schools engaging in daily practices like coaching, feedback, and daily walk-throughs. They were able to work face-to-face with school leadership teams to provide proper guidance. This work made it clear that it is possible for districts to make changes to the role in order to help properly train and provide assistance to their principals. Read more about researchers’ methods in the report here.

As we look further into the costs and benefits of preparing principals to be high-quality leaders, it has become clear how important this investment is in the improvement of schools (particularly low-performing schools). As it stands, districts across the country are making strides toward improving supervisor roles and pipeline systems, but more research is needed to convince others to do the same, and change is ongoing.


Contact Resonant Education to learn more about the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education (VAL-Ed)