New Study of Principal Development Programs Reveals Many Commonalities

A new study by the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute reveals many commonalities of successful pre- and in-service principal professional development programs.

Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World examined eight pre- and in-service principal development programs that “provided evidence of strong outcomes in preparing school leaders” and “represented a variety of approaches, designs, and policy contexts, and partnerships between universities and school districts,” according to the study.

Commonalities of the programs included:

  • Comprehensive curriculum aligned with state and professional standards
  • Formalized mentoring by expert principals, including extensive internships and on-the-job observation
  • School walk-throughs and peer evaluations, connecting theory with practice
  • Fostering the creation of learning communities and networks to aid in on-the-job problem solving
  • Tenacious recruitment of teachers with leadership experience and/or potential to the programs

Elements of these programs also closely mirror many of NASSP’s own Cornerstone Strategies for improving student performance in Breaking Ranks in the Middle and Breaking Ranks II, including: aligning curriculum to state standards, and establishing the academically rigorous essential learnings that a student is required to master in order to successfully make the transition from the middle level to high school, and from high school to postsecondary education; using data to guide school improvement; and extensive, continuous professional development.

The study found that when “compared to a national random sample of principals, graduates of these programs, on average, feel significantly better prepared for virtually every aspect of principal practice, ranging from leading instruction and organizational learning to developing a school vision and engaging parents and the community, [and] have more positive attitudes about the principalship and are more likely to plan to stay in the job, despite working in more challenging urban environments.”

To view the full report, go to seli.stanford.edu.

2 comments on this post.
  1. Lisa Vinkler-Dubich:

    I do think my education at my institution was very well aligned to the state and national standards, but I was very overwhelmed with the Praxis test I took. I do think its better to learn on the job, as with the internship. I have learned so much more than sitting in a classroom reading a textbook.

  2. Maureen Frew:

    I do agree that I am learning more with my “on-the-job” training. While I am learning valuable information in the classroom, I like seeing the “real-world” situations. I believe that my institution will prepare me as best as they can, but it will ultimately be up to me to learn as I go. It’s just like being a first year teacher all over again.

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