• Description

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 standards
  • recruiting aspiring principals into the profession
  • licensing new and veteran principals 
  • approving and overseeing principal preparation programs
  • supporting principals' growth with professional development 
  • evaluating principals
  • using leader tracking systems to support analysis of aspiring and established school leaders' experiences and outcomes.

Using State-level Policy Levers to Promote Principal Quality