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ESSA Leadership Learning Community

In 11 states, community, district, and state stakeholders regularly discussed how to promote effective, equity-minded school leadership. Innovations and policy ideas emerged.

What we did

School districts can cultivate principals who move the needle on student achievement. That was the big finding from major research about Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative. In that effort, six large districts built pipelines that were “comprehensive” and “aligned.” That means they comprised key components to shape effective principals (such as rigorous job standards and apt on-the-job support), and the components reinforced each other.  

The positive results led to an effort to introduce the approach to interested large and medium-sized school districts. Eighty-four districts from around the U.S. took part. They received expert guidance on matters including assessing their current principal development work and planning to adopt or adapt features of comprehensive, aligned pipelines.  

What we learned

Vanderbilt University researchers have been studying the effort. In a report published in 2023, they found that the participating districts sought to strengthen their pipelines in ways including revision of leader standards and development of teacher leaders and assistant principals. Almost all the districts prioritized embedding educational equity in their efforts. Building leader skills to improve student equity was a medium or high priority for about 90 percent of the districts.

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