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Report Series: Principal Pipeline Initiative
Part 2 of 9

Building a Stronger Principalship, Vol. 2

Cultivating Talent Through a Principal Pipeline

Six school districts began changing principal training and support during the early years of Wallace's Principal Pipeline Initiative.
December 2013
A teacher standing in a classroom full of students sitting at their desk doing classwork
  • Author(s)
  • Brenda J. Turnbull, Derek L. Riley, and Jaclyn R. MacFarlane
  • Publisher(s)
  • Policy Studies Associates, Inc.
Page Count 87 pages


This report describes early actions by six large school districts to improve two aspects of developing high-quality school leadership. The first was to upgrade pre-service principal preparation programs by strengthening district-program partnerships. The second was to bolster district supports for novice principals. 

The report is the second in a series about Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative. This multi-year effort supported the districts as they sought to build a large corps of effective principals.

In preservice training, the partnerships helped introduce new application practices. One was to invite people to apply to a program based on district nominations. Another was to use formal rating methods. A third was to ask applicants to make sense of a scenario and perform tasks to address the issues it posed.

In on-the-job support, all six districts took steps including providing novice principals with formal coaching or mentoring. This might include weekly 90-minute, one-on-one sessions with trained, high-performing sitting principals.

School districts and principal preparation program agreed that the following topics were important for aspiring principals to learn about:

  • School improvement design
  • Teacher observation
  • Feedback, and coaching.

A survey of novice principals and assistant principals in the districts gave an idea of careers path to school leader positions. Among the findings: Some 86 percent of respondents had worked as an assistant principal for a median of five years.

The initiative sought to build four key components of principal development and make sure they reinforce each other:

  • Rigorous leader standards
  • High-quality pre-service principal preparation
  • Selective hiring and matching of principals to schools
  • Apt principal evaluation and on-the-job support.

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