The Leaders We Need Now Study

Now more than ever, school principals are vital to student development, school safety, and educational equity. In 2020, principals were called upon to lead differently by supporting teachers and students in transitioning between online, hybrid, and in-person learning and deepening relationships with families and communities experiencing social injustice. As the nation begins to recover from grips of the pandemic, educational leaders are considering how the principalship has changed and how principal support must change to better address the whole child and the inequities affecting students and communities.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and AIR launched the Leaders We Need Now study to examine how principals’ work has changed—and needs to shift—in 2021 and beyond. Over 200 public elementary school principals from across the United States discussed the actions that they have taken to support schools through COVID-19, how they believe that their work has indelibly changed, and what states, districts, and others can do to better support principals now and in the future.

With financial support from The Joyce Foundation, the Leaders We Need Now study convened a series of 36 focus groups with 188 principals from the NAESP membership. Two of three briefs based on these focus groups have been released: