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Report Series: Early Themes in Education Leadership
Part 11 of 14

Good Principals Aren’t Born—They’re Mentored

Are We Investing Enough to Get the School Leaders We Need?

This Southern Regional Education Board report examines the “sad state” of many school-principal mentoring programs and proposes university and district actions to address program weaknesses.
June 2007
2 white woman with blond hair standing with a black woman with dark hair in a classroom having a discussion
  • Author(s)
  • Cheryl Gray, Betty Fry, Gene Bottoms, and Kathy O’Neill
  • Publisher(s)
  • Southern Regional Education Board
Page Count 100 pages


Drawing on new research, this report by the Southern Regional Education Board assesses mentoring programs for aspiring school principals and finds they come up short. The authors argue that high-quality principals result in high-quality schools, and that to be effective in their jobs, new principals must first be tested against rigorous performance requirements during a challenging internship supervised by experts/mentors in the field. Common failings in the internships, the report says, include too few meaningful on-the-job experiences for aspiring principals and poor training of the mentors overseeing them.

The report also lays out a course of action for policymakers and leaders of universities and school districts who share the responsibility for ensuring every beginning principal comes to the job fully prepared. For example, according to the authors, there needs to be a rethinking and restructuring of the way mentors are selected and trained, the responsibilities they assume, and the roles they play in evaluating and documenting the competency of aspiring principals. The report also describes the investments of time, money and people required to develop internships that can help aspiring school principals become strong, effective school leaders.

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