Progress on Principal Preparation

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative. The foundation regularly convenes the initiative’s participants to provide time and space for them to assess their efforts to transform the way they recruit, prepare, and support principals and to plan for further work.

In early 2013, the Wallace Foundation awarded AACTE a grant to serve as one of its communications partners engaged in disseminating research about education leadership as well as the practices and research emerging from the foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative. As part of this multiyear initiative, the foundation has provided grants to six school districts—Prince George’s County (MD), Charlotte-Mecklenberg (NC), Denver (CO), New York City, Hillsborough (FL), and Gwinnett County (GA)—to strengthen their principal pipelines.

Participating districts are finishing Year 2 of this 6-year initiative. It has been fascinating to watch the districts (including central office personnel, principal preparation providers, and other stakeholders) develop comprehensive plans for improving their principal pipelines and to see how implementation unfolds. After all, implementation is where the majority of learning occurs—through the successes and the hiccups.

One of the highlights from the meeting was a presentation by Joseph Murphy (Vanderbilt University, TN) on his upcoming book with his colleague Daniela Torre, Creating Productive Cultures in Schools: For Students, Teachers, and Parents. He shared with the group the research they have been conducting to better understand what makes schools successful. Ultimately, such schools have two key features: a strong “academic press” (high academic expectations, high-quality instructional practice, etc.) and a strong school culture that supports it. The implications for preparing principals (and teachers) to effectively build school cultures that engage students, educators, and parents are far reaching.

While the Wallace Principal Pipeline Initiative is focused on just six school districts, the foundation also has a strong commitment to sharing the “lessons learned” of those districts, to develop tools that all school districts and principal preparation providers can use to improve the quality of school leaders, and to share findings and resources from its longstanding investment in improving school leader quality. In fact, just this week it released a new tool to help districts’ central offices better support principals.

AACTE will continue to share the work of this pipeline in the coming years and to expand our work related to principal preparation. We are thrilled to be collaborating on a school leadership strand at the AACTE Annual Meeting with the University Council for Educational Administration through generous support from the Wallace Foundation. And we have more plans in store to connect AACTE members with research and practical resources to strengthen principal preparation.

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Mary Harrill

Senior Director, Higher Education Accreditation and Program Support National Association for the Education of Young Children