Principal Development As A Strategy In School Improvement

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POLICY BRIEFPOLICY BRIEFFEB2020Principal Development as aStrategy in School ImprovementDamion Pechota and Deven ScottSchool leadership is a key component of successful school environments and academicperformance strategies. Among school-related factors, school leadership is second toteaching in its impact on student learning. In addition, research shows that strong leaderscontribute significantly to successful school turnaround.To ensure that school leaders are equipped to lead their schools and effective in schoolimprovement efforts, states can employ a variety of policy levers. This brief highlights threetypes of state policy initiatives — role recognition, statewide support systems and federalfunding — that can effectively support principals as they engage in school improvement.In schools where principalsTo support principalUnder ESSA, states areare seen as instructionalleadership, states areusing Title I and Title IIleaders and are givenleveraging three typesfunds for principalgreater autonomy, researchof policy initiatives: roledevelopment andshows a direct correlationrecognition, statewidesupport programs.with teacher retention andsupport systems andstudent success.federal funding.1www.ecs.org @[email protected]

Role RecognitionThe role and function of an effectiveprincipal is an important factor in theacademic success and overall environmentof a school. As the managerial andinstructional leader, the principal hasthe ability to impact all teachers andstudents who enter the school building. Inaddition to influencing the overall schoolculture, principal leadership impacts theconsistency and quality of teachers overthe course of a student’s career. Teachersurvey results indicate that strong schoolleadership ranks higher than compensationEvidence From the FieldThe Wallace Foundation’s Principal PipelineInitiative (PPI) was a five-year investment in sixschool districts — large, urban areas locatedin Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, NewYork and North Carolina — that supporteddistrictwide strategies to improve schoolsthrough effective leadership. As part of theinitiative, districts enhanced their leadershipstandards to better define the expectationsof principals. At the end of the initiative,as a key factor in recruitment and retention.student math and literacy scores improved,Research demonstrates that specified rolesdistricts than their counterparts in other districts.for principals that emphasize the abilities ofthe principal as an instructional leader havea direct correlation with teacher retentionand student success. As a policy lever,states can support districts and schools inidentifying core responsibilities by adoptingstatewide school leadership standardsthat emphasize instructional leadership. Toassist in these efforts, states may whollyadopt or adapt national model standards— such as the National Policy Board forEducational Administration’s ProfessionalStandards for Educational Leaders — whileallowing districts to tailor them to meetand principals were more likely to stay in thoseAnother Wallace initiative examined howdistricts can use principal supervisors whooversee and provide services for principals onbehalf of districts. The Principal SupervisorInitiative was a four-year investment in therole and effectiveness of principal supervisors,collecting data on how they serve school anddistrict leaders. Six school districts in California,Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota and Ohiowere chosen for the initiative. The study foundthat principal supervisors help improve schoolprincipal effectiveness, especially in terms ofschoolwide academic success.local needs.In addition to role definition, research on turnaround program implementation identifies thatproviding principals with autonomy allows for greater chances of success.Florida’s Principal Autonomy Program Initiative was a pilot that provided principals withgreater fiscal and administrative autonomy to improve student achievement and schoolmanagement in low-performing schools. Multiple schools improved their letter graderatings by allowing leaders to implement innovative strategies for student success. In 2018,the Florida Legislature made the pilot program permanent.2www.ecs.org @EdCommission

POLICY BRIEFStatewide Support SystemsA second policy lever for principaleffectiveness in school improvement is thedevelopment of state systems to supportFrom Research to Actionand train principals for success. Guided byThe Tennessee Education Research Alliancetheir various K-12 education governanceconducted a series of studies over multiplestructures, state leaders are tasked withschool years on the relationship betweenbringing together different stakeholders andTennessee principals’ evaluations and theirsystems to support principal preparation,effectiveness in school improvement. Usingprofessional development and managementdata from the 2011-12 through 2014-15 schoolof school improvement programs. Statewideyears, TERA’s 2018 report found that schoolssupport systems can help coordinate thesewith highly rated principals had both higherefforts and provide school leaders with toolslevels of student achievement and greaterto be effective.retention of high quality teachers.State policymakers in Tennessee are takingA statewide support system, whichaction to offer leadership development in acan include leadership training andnumber of ways, including specific supportsdevelopment strategies, is requiredfor turnaround principals. In 2018, formerfor turnaround programs forlow-performing schools.For example, in Colorado, the stateboard of education developed aschool transformation grant programthat includes leadership development.The program is administered byTennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announceda comprehensive initiative to focus onimproving the preparation, retention anddevelopment of principals. The initiativeincludes training for new principals to fill theannual estimated 270 school leader vacanciesand incentives for the state’s top principals tolead low-performing schools.the state department of educationto provide leadership training toimprove student performance in thehighest need schools.In order to ensure quality leadership beyond the requirements of turnaround programs,states are developing initiatives and training programs specifically for principals. Tying theseleadership initiatives to larger statewide policy goals helps align school leader expectations withstate or regionally identified improvement strategies.Arkansas has a robust state support system that includes multiple, interconnectedleadership programs to meet both state requirements and regional needs. Created by theArkansas Legislature in 1991, the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville houses the ArkansasLeadership Academy, a training and support program for school leaders and administrators.3www.ecs.org @EdCommission

The academy can enter into partnerships, including private-public partnerships, to enhancetraining and expand leadership development opportunities. Additionally, the Arkansas LeadershipAcademy administers the Master School Principal Program, which focuses on expanding the skillsof public school principals and offers incentives to those who choose to lead high need schools.The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education develops the selection criteriafor the Master School Principal Program candidates, reviewing program performance areas anddeveloping aligned assessments.Federal FundingThe third lever states use to provide school leader support for school improvement is federalfunding. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides federal funds for school improvementefforts based on state-identified needs, and some of those funds can be used specifically forprincipal development.One such source of federal funding isTitle I, which provides additional moneyto schools serving large percentages ofstudents in poverty. Because researchStates Identifying LeadershipDevelopment as a SchoolImprovement Strategy in ESSA Plansshows that strong principal leadershipplays a role in improving student outcomes,Title I dollars can be used for principalMAdevelopment in those schools. At least 33RICTstates identified leadership development asNJDEMDan improvement strategy for Title I schoolsDCin their ESSA plan; a number of others doso in state policy.Another source is Title II, Part A, whichgrants money to states to improveteacher and principal quality in service ofincreasing student academic achievement.ESSA includes an option for states to set aside 3% of Title II, Part A funding specifically for schoolleadership support. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico indicated in their ESSAplans that they will invest in school leadership; at least 24 states indicated they will use the Title IIset-aside to support school leaders.4www.ecs.org @EdCommission

POLICY BRIEFOhio Department of Education indicates that the state uses all allowable ESSA reservations— including the 3% Title II set-aside — to advance the quality of principals and other schoolleaders and to update the state’s school leadership standards.States have also leveraged Title II dollars into larger federal investments in school leadershipspecific to low-performing schools.North Carolina uses Title II dollars to support the Northeast Leadership Academy (currentlypart of NC State University’s Educational Leadership Academy), which prepares aspiringprincipals who are committed to serving in low performing, high need schools in rural NorthCarolina. Created in 2010 as a two-year program serving 13 school districts, the project wasawarded a five-year U.S. Department of Education Title II grant in 2013 to expand its reach.Final ThoughtsStates recognize that, as school leaders, principals are an important part of school improvementstrategies. Research studies continue to expand the understanding of the principal's role inensuring opportunities for student success. While this area continues to develop, states are makingpolicy changes to support principals by specifying their roles, creating statewide frameworks ofsupport and using federal funds for principal development.5www.ecs.org @EdCommission

About the AuthorsDamion PechotaAs a policy analyst, Damion provides research and analysis ona diverse set of state-level education issues. Prior to joining Education Commissionof the States, Damion worked as a senior policy analyst with Legislative Councilat the Colorado General Assembly. Damion is dedicated to the idea that anonpartisan perspective can enhance the discussion and understanding of stateeducation issues from early learning to workforce development. Contact Damionat [email protected] or 303.299.3632.Deven ScottAs a state relations strategist, Deven works to build relationships with allpolicymakers and seeks opportunities to support their education priorities. Shecomes to Education Commission of the States with experience from both state andnational policy arenas, having held positions in a governor’s office and the U.S.Senate. Deven earned both a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’sdegree in public administration from the University of South Dakota — Go ‘Yotes!Contact Deven at [email protected] or 303.299.3622.AcknowledgmentEducation Commission of the States is grateful to TheWallace Foundation for its generous support andcontinued commitment to helping equip states andschool districts with the resources to develop strongschool leadership policies and practices. 2019 by Education Commission of the States. All rights reserved. Education Commission of the States encourages its readers toshare our information with others. To request permission to reprint or excerpt our material, please contact us at 303.299.3609 or [email protected] Commission of the States 700 Broadway Suite 810 Denver, CO 80203