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Using State-level Policy Levers to Promote Principal Quality

November 17, 2020

In this report, we examine how seven states use state policy levers to advance policy change to improve the quality of school principals. These states are all actively engaging in a collaborative initiative focused on principal preparation program redesign. We consider the following questions, drawing on data about the use of various policy levers in the states:How does a state's context shape its use of policy levers to improve principal quality? What  policy  levers  are  states  using,  how  are  the  levers  used,  and  what  policy changes have states made that affect the way levers are used? What supports the effective use of policy levers?What are the barriers to and facilitators of policy change?All seven states in the study were part of The Wallace Foundation's University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI). Launched in 2016, UPPI is supporting seven university-based principal preparation programs to work in collaboration with their district and state partners to redesign and improve the programs to better support the development of effective principals.  The programs were chosen for the initiative, in part, because they were located in states that had favorable conditions for supporting principal quality. In addition, the programs had expressed interest in and already conducted some initial work toward redesigning their principal preparation programs. The UPPI programs and their respective states are Albany State University (Georgia), Florida Atlantic University (Florida), North Carolina State University (North Carolina), San Diego State University (California), the University of Connecticut (Connecticut), Virginia State University (Virginia), and Western Kentucky University (Kentucky).We drew on three data sources for this analysis: (1)  biannual interviews with UPPI participants, (2) interviews with state-level stakeholders across the seven UPPI states, and (3) relevant secondary data, such as state plans, state licensure requirements, state legislation, reports from state departments of education, and research literature on school leadership. In this report, we focus on seven policy levers that states can use to improve school leadership. The first six of these were drawn from research as described by Manna (2015), and the seventh was derived from Grissom, Mitani, and Woo (2019): setting principal standardsrecruiting aspiring principals into the professionlicensing new and veteran principals approving and overseeing principal preparation programssupporting principals' growth with professional development evaluating principalsusing leader tracking systems to support analysis of aspiring and established school leaders' experiences and outcomes.

Principal Pipelines: A Feasible, Affordable, and Effective Way for Districts to Improve Schools

April 1, 2019

Six large school districts that built principal pipelines, a set of measures to cultivate effective school leaders, saw notable, statistically significant benefits for student achievement across their communities, according to this groundbreaking report by RAND. After three years, pipeline-district schools with newly placed principals outperformed comparison schools in other districts by more than 6 percentile points in reading and almost 3 percentile points in math, an unusual accomplishment. "We found no other comprehensive district-wide initiatives with demonstrated positive effects of this magnitude on achievement," the authors say.  The pipelines also led to benefits in principal retention, according to the report. After three years, pipeline districts had nearly eight fewer losses for every 100 newly placed principals than the comparison group. This is significant because principal turnover is disruptive to schools and costly, with districts spending an estimated $75,000 to replace a principal. The report presents the results of research that examined the Principal Pipeline Initiative, a six-year effort supported by The Wallace Foundation and launched in the 2011-2012 school year in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Denver; Gwinnett County, Ga. (outside Atlanta); Hillsborough County (Tampa), Fla.; New York City; and Prince George's County, Md (outside Washington, D.C.). The "pipeline" refers to four, mutually reinforcing components the districts put in place to seek to boost principal effectiveness: rigorous standards that spell out what their principals are supposed to know and do; high-quality pre-service training for aspiring principals; data-informed hiring; and well-aligned support and evaluation of principals, especially newcomers to the job.

School Leadership Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence Review - Updated and Expanded

December 13, 2016

This RAND analysis offers guidance to states and districts on how they can choose to use the Every Student Succeeds Act to help achieve their school improvement goals by supporting principals and other school leaders.

School Leadership Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Volume I - A Review of the Evidence Base, Initial Findings

April 26, 2015

Recognizing that principals can be powerful drivers of improved teaching and learning, the revised law governing the federal government's major source of dollars for public school brings new funding possibilities for activities to promote strong school leadership. At the same time, to be eligible for funding from several significant programs within the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), activities must show evidence of effectiveness. This RAND report describes major ESSA funding programs that can be used to pay for school leadership improvement efforts; the law's categories of acceptable evidence, and where and how they come into play; and activities supported by research in the top three evidence categories. An accompanying commentary, particularly useful for states and districts, summarizes the report's key points and identifies a number of school leadership programs that appear to be eligible for funding under the law, based on the strength of their research base. Later in 2016, a second RAND report is expected to delve into studies that would qualify for the fourth category of evidence. ESSA is the successor to the No Child Left Behind law, itself the descendant of a 1965 law meant to promote equal opportunity in public school education. Its Title I section, the largest single source of federal funding for public schools (some $15 billion to $16 billion annually), provides for the newly named School Improvement Funds program, which can be tapped for school leadership efforts. Another key ESSA feature is that it opens Title II "human-capital" management funding--once targeted only at teachers--at school leaders, too. Those seeking funding need to be mindful that ESSA authorizes federal spending in a number of programs only for activities supported by evidence of effectiveness. The law further categorizes acceptable evidence into four tiers, arrayed by the level of certainty of the evidence. The evidence rules vary by program and in some cases the state may waive them. But for Title I School Improvement Funds, it is clear that only activities backed by the top three tiers qualify for funding. In reviewing research literature, RAND identified 19 school leadership-related studies that fit into Tier I, II or III--including those pertaining to principal preparation and professional development.

Challenges to Value-Enhancing Innovation in Health Care Delivery

October 4, 2011

Offers a framework for identifying innovations in drugs, medical devices and healthcare delivery that realize enhanced social value worth the costs. Outlines market- and policy-based obstacles, including lack of effective competition and budget pressures.

Who is Leading Our Schools: An Overview of School Administrators and Their Careers

June 1, 2003

Focusing on principals and superintendents, describes how the characteristics of individuals who hold administrative positions have changed over time, and the factors that influence individuals' decisions to seek particular administrative positions.