Missing Out on Strong School Leaders? A Survey of Principal Hiring and Support in Washington State

August 2014


Read the Brief on Workforce Data

Hiring and supporting strong principals is one of the most important tasks facing districts today. How are Washington State’s districts doing? Where might they improve? In 2013 CRPE surveyed 423 of Washington State’s principals and 215 of its superintendents to find out. The results highlight some areas of concern but also reasons for optimism. Superintendents say they are looking for principals who can improve student achievement and school performance, but often districts are not as strategic as they could be when it comes to hiring. Many hire principals late into the summer, rarely look at demonstrations of instructional leadership and performance management during the screening process, and underinvest in principal recruitment. More than a quarter of districts say they are still filling principal positions into July and August. For their part, principals say they are positive about their work, despite the pressures they face today. But they also say that they need more help to succeed, especially when it comes to using teacher evaluations to manage the performance of their staff. Strong majorities say the new reforms have improved their conversations with teachers about instruction and are an improvement over the old system, but fewer say the new evaluation reforms help them counsel out underperforming teachers, and they struggle to turn evaluations into overall assessments of performance. The challenge now for school districts in Washington State is to take a more deliberate approach to seeking promising new school leaders and to build on the optimism of its current workforce by supporting them where they need it.