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Professional Learning Communities Support Principal Pipeline Initiative

As part of its Principal Pipeline Initiative, the Wallace Foundation last week convened its National Provider and Graduate Principal Professional Learning Community (National Provider PLC). I attended the meeting on behalf of AACTE, which is a communications partner for the initiative.

The National Provider PLC, launched in April, offers an opportunity for the initiative’s principal preparation providers, program alumni, and district administrators to collaborate in determining the most effective and efficient way to identify, develop, and support effective school leaders. Each district in the Principal Pipeline Initiative—Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC), Denver (CO), Gwinnett County (GA), Hillsborough County (FL), New York City (NY), and Prince George’s County (MD)—also participates in a local PLC. In all, 20 principal preparation programs and 20 graduate principals are involved in this change-driving work, and, of the programs, half are AACTE member institutions.

Each principal preparation program has developed improvement plans based on data derived from a self-assessment known as the Quality Measures tool, an evidence-based framework for assessing the quality of programs’ course content, pedagogy, and clinical practice. Within the local PLCs, program providers participate in data-informed discussions with other providers about the strengths and needs of their respective programs. They compare strategies and share what is working and what is not, all with the aim of building a collective knowledge to define and refine the most effective methods for principal development. Throughout the process, providers also benefit from critical feedback from principal graduates.

During last week’s convening, providers and alumni shared progress updates on local PLC projects addressing targeted areas of improvement and engaged in collaborative problem solving around identified challenges. Cross-cutting challenges included (a) training effective principal mentors to provide ongoing coaching and quality feedback to aspiring principals during clinical practice and (b) accessing impact data needed to determine graduates’ performance outcomes. Based on a synthesis of identified areas of focus, the National Provider PLC plans to engage members in a constructing an instrument to provide evidence to program providers and school districts on new principals’ impact on school, teacher, and student performance.

In the coming year, AACTE plans to share lessons learned from local PLC projects aimed at improving the quality of principal preparation programs. Additionally, we will highlight the National PLC project to develop an evidence-based measure of principal performance.

For more information on the Principal Pipeline Initiative, please contact me at jmilton@aacte.org or Mary Harrill-McClellan at mharrill@aacte.org.

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Jessica Milton

Associate Director of Education Writing and Research, AACTE