Thursday, September 13, 2012

CRPE Introduces New Tools and Strategies to Help States Develop a New Generation of Great Principals

Seattle, WA - Discussions about human capital and school improvement typically center on teachers. Yet the principals who select those teachers are a critical driver of school success. Just as states are beginning to address the weaknesses in their principal pipelines, a new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) offers a set of powerful new tools to help state policymakers diagnose their principal workforce needs and develop comprehensive strategies to address them.

“Most states are stretched to capacity as they work to build new accountability and evaluation systems and turn around low-performing schools,” says Christine Campbell, Policy Director at CRPE and lead author of the report. “It may seem daunting to develop a broad strategy to recruit, prepare, and support a new generation of principals. But local, state, and federal reforms will founder if schools do not have great leaders.”

Principal Concerns: Leadership Data and Strategies for States, written by Campbell and CRPE colleague Betheny Gross, includes a data guide for anticipating leadership needs and a framework for designing policies to get the right leaders into the right jobs.

The report’s “State Principal Data Guide” identifies metrics policymakers should track and analyze in order to develop effective, state-specific policies. For example:

  • Merge principal and school performance data to learn which principal preparation programs graduate the most effective school leaders.
  • Anticipate upcoming retirements and professional development needs by tracking principal age and performance trends, by school type and location.

The report’s other tool, the “Principal Pipeline Framework,” helps states prioritize smart policies to attract and make the most of strong principal talent. The framework includes policies about:

  • The right work: How to design the principalship as an attractive job that challenges and rewards capable people.
  • The right people: How to draw the most talented prospects to the field.
  • The right places: How to provide incentives that draw the best, most determined leaders into the most challenged schools.

The authors suggest a number of specific actions states can take to move in this direction, such as providing more autonomy to principals, limiting barriers to credentialing, and making mentors out of high-performing principals.

Principal pipeline needs vary by state and require customized solutions. Putting the data tools into practice, CRPE will also release a series of state-specific briefs that demonstrate various workforce challenges and considerations for scarce resources. An analysis of Iowa, for instance, shows that nearly half of that state’s principals will be eligible for retirement in the next five years, with upcoming vacancies evenly spread throughout the state.

With retirements on the horizon and strong leaders in short supply, states need to act now to shape broad, comprehensive solutions that improve the job, attract the most promising candidates, and get them into the schools that need them most. CRPE’s new tools can help states move closer to the ultimate goal: an engaged leader in every school who knows how to develop and retain talented teachers and, ultimately, improve student outcomes.

CONTACT: Debra Britt