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April 1, 2013
Vol. 70
No. 7

Double Take

Research Alert

How much do U.S. states know about how their principals are prepared, licensed, supported, and evaluated? Not much, according to a recent report from the George W. Bush Institute. Based on a survey of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report—Operating in the Dark—looks at how states are using their authority to increase the supply of high-quality principals. States approve principal preparation programs, establish standards for principal licensure, and can collect and monitor data not only on how they recruit, select, and prepare principals, but also on how well the principals perform on the job.
The authors conclude that most states don't use their authority to improve the supply of high-quality leaders and that states lack key data that would assist them in this task. For example, 28 states reported that "neither the state nor principal preparation programs are required to collect any data on principal preparation program graduates to know if they secure jobs, retain them, show impact on student achievement, or earn effective ratings on principal evaluations" (p. 10).
In the absence of such data, most states are unable to evaluate—or hold accountable—their principal preparation programs. The report recommends that states should
  • Use more rigorous program approval standards, track outcome data, and hold programs accountable for their graduates' performance.
  • Shut down ineffective programs and reward programs that show exemplary performance.
  • Use performance-based assessments, as opposed to such inputs as years of teaching and academic degrees, when granting initial licenses to principals.
  • Base principal license renewal decisions on job performance.
  • Further invest in statewide longitudinal data systems that will enable states to track principals as they move from preparation to licensure to school leadership positions.
Operating in the Dark: What Oudated State Policies and Data Gaps Mean for Effective School Leadership, written by Kerri Briggs, Gretchen Rhines Cheney, Jacqueline Davis, and Kerry Moll, is available at

Numbers of Note

75 The percentage of U.S. K–12 principals surveyed who believe the job has become too complex.
42 The percentage of U.S. K–12 principals who say they have a great deal of control over curriculum and instruction.
59 The percentage of U.S. K–12 principals who feel very satisfied on the job (compared with 68 percent in 2008).
Source: MetLife (2013). The MetLife survey of the American teacher: Challenges for school leadership. New York: Author. Retrieved from

Online Only

For Principals: A Social Media Support Group

To increase your comfort zone with social media, join Eric Sheninger (principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey) and Joe Mazza (principal of Knapp Elementary School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania) on Leadership 2.0. This professional learning community (PLC) offers free webinars, live chats, and online discussions that help principals expand their personal networks, integrate technology into learning, connect with parents and the community, and get practical advice about how to get started with social media. Monthly webinars tackle such topics as the fundamentals of leadership 2.0 and maximizing engagement in a Common Core environment.
Leadership 2.0 is one of 18 free online PLCs hosted by on topics that range from blended learning to growing school gardens to exploring mobile learning.

Relevant Reads

The Principal: Traversing the High-Wire with No Net Below by Don Sternberg (RoseDog Books, 2012)
Sternberg, an award-winning principal with a 42-year career in public education, likens the principalship to being a high-wire aerialist: "At times, as principal, you can feel that you are a hundred feet off the ground, traversing your career alone—spotlight beaming up at you—and with no net under you." The bottom line is that there is only one principal, whose every decision is scrutinized by multiple stakeholders. Sternberg offers practical advice for remaining balanced.
"The last thing anyone wants to hear is a principal standing in front of a large gathering of school stakeholders and asking the group to trust him or her. Asking for trust won't get it! What people do want is to work with a principal who can be trusted day in and day out, and whose credibility and integrity are never in question." (p. 3)

World Spin

Let's Hear It for Local

In New South Wales, Australia, school principals will now have greater control over their school budgets. More than 200 public schools will switch to a funding model that provides extra money for schools that have large proportions of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, Aboriginal students, English language learners, and students with disabilities. When fully implemented, this model will enable schools to control 70 percent of the total school budget as part of New South Wales' Local School, Local Decisions autonomy plan.

Page Turner

When she discovered I was the new principal, she gasped and assured me everybody was praying for me.
— Deborah S. Peterson, p. 74

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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