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Principal Pipelines Retain Newly Placed Principals and Increase Student Achievement

Research indicates that effective school leadership is associated with better outcomes for students and schools. A high-quality school leader affects their teachers and students for many years. School districts are also instrumental in affecting teacher and student outcomes by playing a pivotal role in supporting their school leaders.

The Wallace Foundation partnered with six large and urban school districts across the nation to study the effects of Principal Pipelines from 2011 to 2016. The purpose was to examine whether a comprehensive principal pipeline would be more effective than business-as-usual approaches to the preparation and management of school leaders. The term, principal pipeline, encompasses the following components: 1) leader standards that guide all pipeline activities, 2) preservice preparation opportunities for assistant principals and principals, 3) selective hiring and placement, and 4) on-the-job induction, evaluation, and support. School districts were also required to produce and implement systems to further develop and sustain the principal pipeline outside of the study’s original time frame.

This multiyear study of the Principal Pipeline Initiative (PPI) showed that such systems and reforms in principal preparation and support are feasible, effective, and affordable. Some of the major findings include the following:

  • All districts were able to implement all components of the principal pipeline at scale and they were able to enhance the pipeline according to their district’s needs.
  • Schools with newly place principals who participated in the PPI outperformed comparison schools with newly placed principals by 6.22 percentile points in reading and 2.87 percentile points in mathematics.
  • Newly placed principals in PPI districts were 7.8 percentage points more likely to remain in their schools for at least three years than newly placed principals in comparison schools.
  • PPI districts spent about $42 per student per year on pipeline activities during the initiative. This is less than 0.5% of the participating districts’ annual budget.

Districts looking to enhance school outcomes and improve the retention of newly placed principals should consider reading the report. You can download the full report here.

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