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Principals and other school leaders: The evidence base for their critical role in ESSA – with state examples

This educational briefing was given to the U.S. Department of Education on June 26, 2017.
June 30, 2017


  • After introducing the Wallace Foundation and its work, the briefing stated that 30+ studies on school leadership met ESSA evidence requirements with 18 meeting requirements from Tiers I-III. It was also explained that high-quality principals are key to attaining and retaining high-quality teachers, as well as aiding in improving struggling schools ("certified" principals do not always mean "qualified").
  • The briefing then launched into the importance of principal pipelines, including its impact on assisting in better leader standards and evaluation systems, as well as being highly cost effective for states and districts.
  • The briefing further discussed Wallace's University Principal Pipeline Initiative, the goal of which was stated to "learn how university principal preparation programs—working in partnership with high-needs school districts, exemplary preparation programs and the state—improve their training so it reflects the evidence on how to best prepare effective principals."
  • At the time of the briefing, there were 25 states working at unprecedented levels to increase the effectiveness of school leadership. This was done through working on principal mentoring and coaching, professional development of both novice and veteran principals, principal feedback, and developing principals of low-performing or hard-to-staff schools.
  • The briefing concluded by addressing the main ESSA entry points for school leadership, including school improvement (Title I), building support systems for teachers (Title IIA), and explicitly including principal supervisors in the conversation, while using Tennessee and Missouri as examples of states that set aside 3% of Title II funds to aid in fostering better school leadership.
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