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New RAND Report Identifies Policy Levers States Can Use to Promote School Leadership

New RAND Report Identifies Policy Levers States Can Use to Promote School Leadership
November 17, 2020


Aurelia Grayson
(917) 699-9930

Ann Bradley
(301) 485-4361

New RAND Report Identifies Policy Levers States Can Use to 
Promote School Leadership

Seven states share lessons, challenges and opportunities from efforts
to improve principal quality

New York – To promote effective school leadership, seven states have adopted a number of  policies in recent years, from updating job standards for principals to changing administrator licensing, according to a report commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and released today by the RAND Corporation.

The report, Using State-level Policy Levers to Promote Principal Quality: Lessons from Seven States Partnering with Principal Preparation Programs and Districts, draws on previous research to identify key actions that states can take to improve principalship. These levers include setting rigorous, evidence-based standards for the job; recruiting promising candidates; overseeing principal preparation programs; principal licensure; principal evaluation; providing for professional development; and developing leader tracking systems that capture longitudinal data about the characteristics and experiences of aspiring and current school leaders.

“States can play an essential role in providing supportive policy environments for developing and supporting effective school leaders,” said Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at The Wallace Foundation. “There haven’t been many examples of how this can be done.  We hope this report might serve as a resource for policymakers who would like to learn from how seven states have approached this work.”

The states—California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia—are all participants in Wallace’s University Principal Preparation Initiative, which includes seven university principal preparation programs that partnered with local districts and states aiming to promote principal preparation nationally.

The pathway from aspiring school leader to fully fledged principal varies greatly by state, the report notes, and these variations come to the fore when policymakers determine which levers to pull and how. Representatives of state government, districts, and nonprofits who were interviewed by RAND agreed that the most effectively used lever has been standards, followed by licensure, program approval and oversight. Led by RAND’s Susan Gates, the research team pointed out that levers can influence one another, and the report urges state policymakers to take “careful consideration of the mix of policy options available and the connections among the levers.” The report builds on an earlier study by Paul Manna, of The College of William and Mary, Developing Excellent School Principals to Advance Teaching and Learning: Considerations for State Policy, published by The Wallace Foundation in 2015.


Based in New York City, The Wallace Foundation is an independent national philanthropy that seeks to foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people, and in the arts for everyone. Its current areas of interest include school leadership, expanding and diversifying audiences for the arts, social and emotional learning, summer learning, arts education, and afterschool. Wallace aims to help solve problems facing the fields in which it works, benefiting both the organizations it works with directly and the broader field by developing credible, useful knowledge to inform policy and practice nationwide. The foundation maintains a free, online Knowledge Center at


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