Strengthening the Principal Pipeline: Innovative Ideas From State Equity Plans
As of the close of 2015, the U.S. Department of Education had approved Equitable Access to Excellent Educators plans (also known as equity plans) for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Not surprisingly, the approved plans zero in mainly on teacher quality issues, but many states also highlighted school leadership strategies aimed at closing equity gaps.
Nearly 40 percent of states included strategies in their equity plans targeted at school leaders. Seventeen states documented plans to improve professional learning opportunities for principals, and 10 states plan to improve principal preparation programs or raise standards for principal licensure. Fewer states noted plans for programs for principal compensation and incentives or enhanced recruitment strategies.
Although many of these strategies outline typical activities—for example, professional learning communities for principals or more comprehensive mentoring and induction programs for new principals—a small number of states put forth a more comprehensive vision based on principal “talent-management systems.” These systems aim to attract, support, and retain the best principals while infusing the pipeline with new talent to replace an aging school leadership workforce.
Utah’s equity plan includes a “Leadership Enhancement” strategy that straddles the entire principal career continuum from preparation and licensure to refining principal practice standards to more strongly reflect the new Professional Standards for Education Leaders (also known as the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards refresh). The strategy also calls for improving the evaluation system’s implementation fidelity and expanding professional learning opportunities. Of particular note is the brief mention of “talent management professional development” for human resources directors and administrators, which points to Utah’s focus on understanding the importance of a cohesive pipeline of principal support and development.
Maine’s equity plan includes a unique approach to improve the quality of the principal pipeline—surveying principals and teachers to deepen understanding of why they leave the profession. Stakeholder engagement like this may enable Maine to better attract and retain the best principals and teachers.
North Carolina’s equity plan includes strategies ranging from improving preparation program approval, expanding “grow-your-own” principal academies, providing more performance incentives, and expanding professional learning for principals. One stand-out strategy is North Carolina’s development of “Educator Preparation Program Report Cards” to provide a snapshot of key statistics, such as how many candidates go on to complete the program, the placement rates, and the average grade point average of the admitted candidate. This type of information may help aspiring principals to become more informed “consumers” of education and can help districts learn which programs are admitting the most qualified candidates.
- Georgia’s equity plan links principal performance data to preparation programs, seeking to strengthen accountability for preparation programs’ effectiveness in producing principals who boost student achievement. Beyond student outcomes, Georgia aims to capture information using a broad array of principal performance metrics, such as principal evaluation data, principal placement rates, principal content knowledge, principal retention, and graduate and employer survey data.
Equity plans represent a critical step in establishing talent-management systems for teachers and principals to ensure that all students—regardless of race, income, or zip code—are taught by an excellent teacher in a school led by an excellent principal. As these plans are rolled out, we hope states continue to pay close attention to successful strategies for attracting, supporting, and retaining the best educators.
Now it's your turn. We want to hear your thoughts.
- How important is improving the quality of school leaders to achieve the larger goal of closing teacher equity gaps?
- What innovative strategies have you seen districts and states utilize to improve the quality of the principal pipeline?
- Do some areas of principal talent management “matter” more than others in improving school and student outcomes?