What Districts Know—and Need to Know—About Their Principals

Matthew A. Clifford

Research on school leadership has highlighted the impact principals have on student achievement through their influence on classroom instruction, organizational conditions, community support, and setting the teaching and learning conditions in schools. Despite its potential to inform district decision-making, high-quality data about principal preparation, experience, and assignment are rarely available within districts.

What Districts Know—and Need to Know—About Their Principals highlights limitations of district-level data on principals encountered during data collection for a study on principal preparation programs. The brief describes the importance of improving the accuracy and availability of these data to explore questions about how to find, support, and keep the best leaders, and includes highlights from three districts that have developed comprehensive leader tracking systems. Also included are guiding questions and a checklist of data elements for districts to consider in addressing key questions to support finding, supporting, and keeping the best leaders.

This brief was developed from a study conducted by the George W. Bush Institute and AIR on principal preparation programs serving five medium-to-large districts.