This report draws on interviews with school district system developers, directors of talent development, and other district leaders in fall and winter 2016-17. The analysis is intended to inform other practitioners about the lessons learned and the opportunities revealed from those who have built and used a leader tracking system.
Good data about principals and applicants for the job can lead to informed decisions about hiring and other matters. Organizing and analyzing the data can be difficult, though.
Six large school districts set out to meet the challenge by creating databases called “leader tracking systems.” This report describes how. It also shares lessons learned in building and rolling out these systems.
The districts were part of The Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative. This effort supported the districts in building a systematic approach to creating a large corps of effective school leaders. The approach involved developing rigorous leader standards, high-quality principal preparation, selective hiring and placement, and apt on-the-job evaluation and support. The approach proved successful in positively affecting student achievement and principal retention.
Leader tracking systems were part of the work. The data these systems collected on principals and principal candidates included:
Districts found that leader tracking systems helped them with:
You don't know what you don't know until you have the data right in your face.— Administrator in a district that built a leader tracking system
A leader tracking system does not set priorities for a district. But it can supply important demographic data, including the numbers and characteristics of sitting and aspiring leaders. In doing so, it can highlight issues that districts should pay attention to and inform discussions about those issues.
For example, when one of the districts began filtering data by race and ethnicity, it saw a gap. Black and Hispanic school leaders were in short supply relative to the student population. Learning that spurred the district to make greater recruiting efforts among teachers of color. Another district examined its data on aspiring principals’ cultural competency. The “eye-opening” shortcomings the data revealed promoted new kinds of discussions about district needs.
The Principal Pipeline Initiative school districts were: