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Districts Bolstering Leadership Ranks Under Principal Initiative, Report Finds

Six urban school districts receiving a combined $75 million in philanthropic funding are seizing opportunities to improve school leadership by better training principals, and supporting and evaluating them on the job, a new report finds.

That conclusion comes from the third-year evaluation of the "Principal Pipeline Initiative," the multi-million dollar investment by the New York City-based Wallace Foundation in large districts across the country. The six districts are: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Denver; Gwinnett County, Ga.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; New York City; and Prince George's County, Md. The foundation sought out districts that already had in place rigorous requirements, high-quality principal training, and on-the-job supports for school leaders. The grants expire in 2016.

As part of the initiative, Wallace commissioned two outside research organizations—Policy Studies Associates, Inc., and the Rand Corp.—to conduct the annual evaluations.

Researchers found that the participating districts are more effectively using data about principals and aspiring principals to "make better-informed decisions on hiring and placing" school leaders.

The reviewers also found that the districts are increasingly focused on grooming their assistant principals for the top jobs in schools. It's a response to a problem the districts had in common: too few strong candidates were applying for principal jobs and too many novice principals were struggling.

The report also praised the districts for exercising more control over those aspiring principals and the training they get. They did so by working closely with partner organizations, such as universities, and expanded their in-house leadership programs.

In exchange for the Wallace investment, the districts agreed to work on comprehensive methods to identify, train, evaluate, and support principals. The Wallace Foundation also supports coverage of leadership, expanded learning time, and arts learning in Education Week.

"The process of implementing the Principal Pipeline Initiative did not end in 2014," the report concludes. "... district leaders continued to revisit and refine the work that they had already done, seeking improvement in every component as they continue to learn from the experience."

Education Week today published a new special report that examines the principalship from a number of angles and includes some reporting from the Wallace-funded pipeline districts. The report was supported, in part, by a grant from the Wallace Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of the report.

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