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Rethinking Leadership

The Changing Role of Principal Supervisors

How can school districts ensure that principal supervisors are able to help principals meet the demands of their jobs? This report provides an early look.
October 2013
Findings from two surveys, fielded six years apart, provide indications that large school districts nationwide are redesigning the principal supervisor job to focus more on principal support.
  • Author(s)
  • Amanda Cochran, Michael Casserly, Ricki Price-Baugh, Denise Walston, Robin Hall, and Candace Simon
  • Publisher(s)
  • Council of the Great City Schools
Page Count 82 pages


This study by the Council of the Great City Schools explores ways in which principal supervisors are selected, supported, and evaluated in major school districts in the U.S. It is based on a survey of principal supervisors conducted in several of the country’s largest urban public school systems as well as an in-depth investigation of the six districts participating in Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative.

Describing the different systems central offices use to supervise and support principals, the study takes a close look at the role principal supervisors play, the manner in which they are hired, the support and professional development they receive, and how central offices monitor and evaluate their performance. It finds that these administrators often face daunting problems in carrying out their jobs effectively. For example, they are often insufficiently trained, mismatched to their schools and oversee far too many principals.

The study also identifies structures and practices most likely to improve leadership and learning in schools. It offers recommendations for building more effective principal supervisory systems. 

Among the report's recommendations are that districts should clearly define the role of principal supervisors; carefully match their skills to the needs of their schools; provide them with appropriate training and professional development; hold them accountable for the performance of their schools; and reduce the number of principals each supervisor oversees.

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