Digital Promise developed the recommendations in this report through a research review and interviews. First, authors reviewed existing research on the intersections of school leadership, virtual learning, equity, and the seven parts of an effective principal pipeline. Second, in early 2021 they conducted interviews with 11 leaders from five school districts. These districts had been recognized by Digital Promise for sustaining powerful teaching and learning in the shift to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a sudden, unexpected shift to remote learning. It also brought new awareness of the need for principals able to meaningfully and equitably integrate technology into the school day.
How can school districts develop a large corps of such principals? Research on the topic is still emerging and has a number of gaps. But this report by Digital Promise offers early considerations for decision-makers. Digital Promise is a nonprofit that works with districts and schools nationwide to use technology effectively.
The authors say three factors are important to ensure that digital learning is both equitable and high-quality. They call this “powerful learning.” The factors are:
Districts may want to develop more principals able to lead virtual or other digital learning. The report discusses three areas for district leaders to consider:
Research has found that principal pipelines with seven key components can help school districts develop effective leaders for a large number of schools. The first of these components is a set of rigorous standards for the principal’s job. Other components are high-quality preservice training for aspiring principals and strong evaluation and supports for sitting principals.
Districts can embed digital learning expertise into the pipeline parts. The report explains how. For example, standards could align digital learning with a district’s overall goals for high-quality teaching and learning. Preservice programs could work to ensure that their curriculum meets the digital learning needs of district schools.
This publication is part of an occasional Wallace series titled Considerations. Wallace invites leading scholars and other experts to share insights based on research and theory. These insights are on issues important to the fields Wallace supports.