Evaluation of the Principal Pipeline Initiative

School Improvement
The Wallace Foundation
PSA Director
Brenda J. Turnbull


The Wallace Foundation is supporting an initiative in six large school districts to strengthen the pipeline for preparing and supporting school principals. The initiative addresses four components of a district’s school leadership pipeline: standards for leadership; high-quality preservice preparation; selective hiring and placement; and on-the-job evaluation and support for novices. Overall, it is designed to build districts’ capacity to advance their priorities through school leadership.

The evaluation explores not only what a good pipeline looks like but also what goes into strengthening an existing pipeline in real-world contexts. Study methods include collection and analysis of interviews, surveys, and district administrative data.

Districts’ ways of evaluating and supporting novice principals are the focus of the latest report. The districts see evaluation as a tool to help principals improve, and they have paid attention to the process of implementing and fine-tuning their evaluation systems. In particular, too, they have worked to build principal supervisors’ capacity to observe and rate professional practice, to give feedback, and to guide principals’ efforts to improve their work.

Among the study’s other findings to date:

  • With more than 80 percent of new principals having served as assistant principals, districts want to revamp that position to build the skills of future instructional leaders
  • Five of the districts have launched or expanded their own preparation programs, as well as working closely with university and nonprofit programs for principal preparation
  • The districts have installed new selection gates on the way to the principalship, trying to find the best potential leaders through multiple stages of assessment
  • Districts have developed standards for the principalship and, more important, are aligning preparation, hiring, evaluation, and professional development to these standards

A future report will analyze the status of the pipelines and lessons learned after four years of the initiative. The final report in the series will measure the impact of the pipelines on student achievement.