Principal Preparation

Principals’ leadership is a critical factor in schools’ success, and school leader preparation programs play a key role in facilitating that success. Specific strategies and resources can support the growth of a strong pipeline of principals who are able to lead teaching and learning in today’s schools.

Understanding principal preparation programs and their benchmarks for quality is a critical aspect of AACTE’s current work. With support from The Wallace Foundation, AACTE engages higher education and PK-12 partners in research, professional development opportunities, and collaborative initiatives focused on strengthening the quality and effectiveness of principal preparation programs.

AACTE is committed to supporting its members in delivering high-quality school leader preparation programs. The following resources may be useful:

AACTE’s Wallace Foundation Grant

Excellent school leadership is essential to school quality, educator satisfaction, and teacher effectiveness. The Wallace Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports efforts nationwide to improve school leadership, has awarded AACTE grants to serve as a communications partner for these initiatives. In this role, AACTE engages in disseminating research and other resources about education leadership as well as the promising practices emerging from the initiatives. AACTE has hosted webinars, organized sessions at the Annual Meeting, assisted in research efforts, and published blogs and other materials related to this work. The research report from the Rand Corporation, Principal Pipelines: A Feasible, Affordable, and Effective Way for Districts to Improve Schools, released in April 2019, found that newly placed principals in pipeline-district schools outperformed comparison schools in other districts.

Principal Pipeline Initiative

In 2010, The Wallace Foundation, launched the Principal Pipeline Initiative. This 6-year investment provided grants to six school districts—Prince Georges County (MD), Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC), Denver (CO), New York City, Hillsborough (FL), and Gwinnett County (GA)—to strengthen their local systems’ ability to prepare, hire, and continually develop a strong corps of school leaders. AACTE received a grant to serve as one of the Wallace communications partners for the initiative. In this role, AACTE engaged in disseminating research and other resources about education leadership as well as the promising practices emerging from the initiative.

University Preparation Program Initiative

The Wallace Foundation announced a major new initiative in 2016 to support the redesign of higher education-based programs for preparing school leaders. Investing $47 million over 5 years, the University Preparation Program Initiative brings together selected institutions and school districts to share best practices and develop more effective principal training.

The initiative builds on 15 years of Wallace-funded programming and research on school leadership, including the Principal Pipeline Initiative. AACTE also was one of four organizations tapped by Wallace to conduct surveys, literature reviews, and other work to inform the new initiative, summarized in the report Improving University Principal Preparation Programs: Five Themes From the Field, released at the 2016 AACTE Annual Meeting. The report Launching a Redesign of University Principal Preparation for Change, released in October 2018, describes the first year of the effort and how universities and their partners succeeded in establishing strong working relationships and being planning a redesign of their programs.

School Leadership Resources

Several organizations and associations provide resources for research, guidance, and tools that you can use to develop your school leadership course work and ensure programs are effective at meeting the needs of today’s PK-12 learners.

The Wallace Foundation – School Leadership More than a decade’s worth of school leadership research.

University Council for Educational Administration This consortium of higher education institutions is committed to advancing the preparation and practices of effective educational leaders.

Center for Educational Leadership – University of Washington This center provides support to staff at every level of a school district to improve the principal pipeline.

National Association of Elementary School Principals NAESP supports elementary school principals with professional development opportunities.

National Association of Secondary School Principals NASSP provides resources and professional development to school leaders in middle schools and high schools.

Principal Preparation Webinars

What Should High-Quality Principal Preparation Programs Look Like
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From Teacher to Principal: Educational Leadership Tracking System
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Successful University and District Partnerships for Preparing Principals
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The Challenges and Successes of Principal Recruitment and Retention
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