Over the past 25 years, the number of assistant principals as well as the percentage of schools with them have increased dramatically—and the job has become a much more common stepping stone to the principalship. To date, however, the role has received relatively little attention by districts, states, and researchers, and approaches to it vary considerably. A new synthesis of research—one of the most comprehensive to date—by researchers at Vanderbilt University and Mathematica suggests that assistant principals could become more powerful forces in advancing school improvement and equity. Based on an exploration of 79 studies published since 2000, along with analyses of national survey results and data from two states, the researchers conclude that assistant principals are uniquely positioned to help make progress toward a number of goals, from promoting equitable outcomes for students and contributing to a diverse pool of high-quality principals to addressing principal attrition and teacher shortages.

The lead researchers—Ellen Goldring, Patricia and Rodes Hart professor and chair in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University; Mollie Rubin, research assistant professor at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University; and Mariesa Herrmann, senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research—will share highlights from their new study: “The Role of Assistant Principals: Evidence and Insights for Advancing School Leadership.”

Following their presentation, a team of panelists—Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools; Beverly Hutton, chief programs officer at NASSP; and Debra Paradowski, 2020 Assistant Principal of the Year—will reflect on the implications of the findings, with Nicholas Pelzer, senior program officer of The Wallace Foundation, as moderator.