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Understanding the Effects of Building a Principal Pipeline Strategy

The learning continues one year after the launch of RAND’s groundbreaking report on school leadership
April 8, 2020 2 Min Read

On this day one year ago educators from around the country came to New York City to celebrate the launch of the RAND Corporation’s report Principal Pipelines: A Feasible, Affordable, and Effective Way for Districts to Improve Schools. The report, which examined the impact of a strategic approach to school leader development in the six large districts that took part in Wallace’s Principal Pipeline Initiative, found a positive impact on student achievement and principal retention.

A lot has happened since we released the findings, and it’s no understatement to say a lot has happened in the world around us as well. Still, we thought this day was worthy of note, both to acknowledge the significance of the original findings and the work they have inspired.

In late 2019, we commissioned market research to better understand how state and local educators view pipelines, the benefits they deemed most important and any barriers that prevented them from implementing the approach. This could ultimately help us and others in the field communicate more effectively about pipelines. The main takeaway: The researchers found that the response to the principal pipeline approach to developing a robust corps of effective school leaders is “resoundingly positive.” However, a key challenge in advancing pipelines is differentiating what some districts are doing now from the deliberate and comprehensive approach encompassed in the domains of the principal pipeline strategy. There’s much more in the deck for those interested in the language we use to define school leadership and what it means to different people.

Meanwhile, we’ve been working with 90 school districts in 31 states to test and spread the lessons learned from the Principal Pipeline Initiative. The 90 districts have signed on to test a tool kit that guides how they hire, train and match principals. Read more about the initiative here and stay tuned for results in the fall.  Finally, later this year, we will release a literature review on the connection between school leadership and student achievement.

And if you’re still looking for more on the Principal Pipeline, visit our Pipeline Page for all things related to the groundbreaking report and the work behind it.

Photo by Claire Holt

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