The Principal Pipeline Podcast: Practitioners Share Lessons from the Field (Intro)

Episode 1: Building the Pipeline

Episode 2: Improving Job Standards and Hiring Pays Off

Episode 3: Districts and Universities Work Together to Improve Preparation

Episode 4: Mentors Support Novice Principals on the Job

Episode 5: States Can Play a Role in Building Principal Pipelines

Episode 6: Shoring Up Two Critical Roles, Assistant Principals and Principal Supervisors

Episode 7: A District Strategy to Improve Student Achievement

Episode 8: Building Principal Pipelines Improves Principal Retention

Episode 9: Measuring the Effectiveness of Principal Pipelines

Episode 10: How Districts Sustained Their Principal Pipelines

Key Resources

What exactly is it that effective principals do that ripples through classrooms and boosts learning, especially in failing schools? Since 2000, The Wallace Foundation, which has supported projects to promote education leadership in 24 states and published 70 reports on the subject (including the Minnesota/Toronto research), has been trying to answer that question. A recently published Wallace Perspective report that takes a look back at the foundation’s research and field experiences finds that five practices in particular seem central to effective school leadership (The Wallace Foundation, 2012):

  1. Shaping a vision of academic success for all students, one based on high standards
  2. Creating a climate hospitable to education in order that safety, a cooperative spirit, and other foundations of fruitful interaction prevail
  3. Cultivating leadership in others so that teachers and other adults assume their part in realizing the school vision
  4. Improving instruction to enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn at their utmost
  5. Managing people, data and processes to foster school improvement.

When principals put each of these elements in place—and in harmony—principals stand a fighting chance of making a real difference for students.

Design Challenge Statement
How might we employ our school leadership team (SLT) to mobilize our school’s vision of academic success for all students? As part of this design challenge, you’ll work with your team to design a process and/or tool to evaluate SLT actions and decisions on the basis of their contribution to a vision of academic success for all students.

Tool: Collaborative Conversation Guide
Leaders will learn how to use the Collaborative Conversation Guide Prototype to improve their decision-making process. This guide provides an evidence-based framework relative to student outcomes for structuring conversation around key processes, instructional grouping, instructional delivery, and collaborative culture.

Tool: Leadership Team Dashboard
Leaders will learn about the importance of leveraging the capacity of their leadership team. Through the use of a Leadership Team Dashboard, authentic structure and resources will assist leaders in shaping and monitoring a consistent school wide vision for student success.

Building Ranks Dimensions
Student-Centeredness; Equity; Communication; Collaborative Leadership; Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment

Design Challenge Statement
How might we provide teachers more leadership opportunities? As part of this design challenge, you’ll work with your team to design products and tools that cultivate opportunities for teacher leadership that enhance a school’s climate and optimize its potential for supporting the educational mission of the school.

Tool: PowerPoint Presentation on Fostering Teacher Leadership
Leaders will learn how to enhance their school’s climate by fostering and developing teacher leadership in the building. This prototype highlights proven, research-based practices in identification of potential leaders; methods for selecting teacher leaders; and ideas for how to train teacher leaders.

Building Ranks Dimensions
Collaborative Leadership, Human Capital Management

Design Challenge Statement
How might we increase teacher collaboration? As part of this design challenge, you’ll work with your team to design tools for promoting teacher collaboration.

Tool: A Roadmap to Effective PLCs
Leaders will learn about an interactive prototype that supports the principal in increasing teacher collaboration during Professional Learning Community (PLC) time to improve student achievement. This prototype features a self-assessment; a diagnostic area of focus; and targeted resources including videos, templates, protocols, and rubrics within each area, which allow leaders to evaluate the progress of the PLC work in their buildings.

Building Ranks Dimensions
Student-Centeredness; Collaborative Leadership; Results-Orientation; Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment; Reflection and Growth

Design Challenge Statement
How might we develop common understanding of how literacy develops across grade levels? As part of this design challenge, you’ll work with your team to design a tool for promoting deep understanding of literacy acquisition and development across grade levels.

Tool: ProLit: Literacy Integration Tool
Leaders will experience a dashboard of the effective components of literacy integration in all subject areas. Appreciative inquiry serves as the foundation of integrating literacy. Information and ideas on how to use this approach are included, along with videos, rubrics, and other resources for literacy in math. The shell is built for other areas of literacy integration and can be populated by the leader according to their needs.

Building Ranks Dimensions
Equity; Communication; Results-Orientation; Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment; Human Capital Management

Design Challenge Statement
How might we use student work as a data source to plan instruction? As part of this design challenge, you’ll work with your team to design a tool to make efficient and effective analytical use of student work as a mechanism to drive instructional decisions. This tool will focus on instruction planning after the analysis of student work rather than the analysis itself.

Tool: I’ve Analyzed My Data, Now What?
Leaders will experience a planning tool that provides the “so what” after teachers analyze data. The tool will give teachers the resources and support necessary to plan differentiated instruction for their students both individually and collaboratively after data analysis has occurred.

Building Ranks Dimensions: Student-Centeredness; Collaborative Leadership; Results Orientation; Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment; Human Capital Management


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Principal Leadership, Vol. 18 n1, pp. 47-49Browne, D. (May 2017). The role of nonacademic skills in academic outcomes. Principal Leadership, Vol.19 n9, pp. 40-43Cummins, H.J. (January/February 2015). Best Practices in Action. Principal, v94 n3 pp. 26-29

Making Space for New Leaders. Principal Leadership, v15 n5 p24-27.

JSD the Learning Forward Journal, v35 n5 p46-49.School districts are experimenting with several strategies to build up the role of principals’ managers in the central office as a means to improve principal effectiveness and provide instructional support.

Gil, J. Wallace Foundation. Despite tight budgets, Denver Public Schools has hired more people to coach and evaluate leaders. Here’s how the district did it.

Syed, S. A Wallace Foundation study finds five practices that will help principals lead their schools through implementing new standards.

Mendels, P., Mitgang, L.D. The Wallace Foundation reports on dozens of districtwide efforts that are aiming to make school leaders more effective.

This articles argues for principal training programs that are selective, comprehensive and support principals beyond their graduation dates.

Mendels. P. Six school districts are participating in an initiative funded by The Wallace Foundation to ensure that a large corps of school leaders is properly trained, hired, and developed on the job.

Mendels, P. After reviewing its body of research and field experiences, The Wallace Foundation pinpoints five practices central to effective school leadership.

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This is a four-part video series that explores Illinois’ actions to revamp the way school principals are prepared. The series begins with the tale of how the state of Illinois and its partners, including universities, districts and teachers’ unions, accomplished this change. Two of the videos profile exemplary preparation programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago and New Leaders Chicago, which helped to inspire the higher standards and whose graduates effectively lead Chicago public schools. The final video features Chicago principals who describe how their training programs prepared them for the real demands of their jobs.

How can state policy improve the effectiveness of school principals? Educators, including New York State’s commissioner of education gathered in Washington, D.C., on November 3, 2015, to discuss a major Wallace Foundation report that seeks to answer that question. Keynote speaker Paul Manna, professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary and the author of the report, Developing Excellent School Principals to Advance Teaching and Learning: Considerations for State Policy, summarized key findings from his research. He described three matters policymakers must understand before taking action: principals’ place on their state’s policy agenda; six possible levers that could trigger change; and their state’s unique context, including the ways in which key education-related institutions interact.

This video series follows 10 principals in four metropolitan areas through their workdays, showing how they use five practices of effective school leadership to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms. The practices, described in The School Principal as Leader, are based on more than a decade of Wallace-supported research to identify what successful principals do.

Six large school districts have been participating since 2011 in The Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative, a six-year effort to train, hire and support talented principals. In this series of eight videos, the superintendents of these districts discuss details of their effort, lessons they have learned and advice they can offer to other districts. Many of the experiences they recount are detailed in a January 2015 report about the initiative, one in a series by independent researchers evaluating the effort.

This web-based professional learning guide uses excerpts from the award-winning PBS documentary film, The Principal Story, to illustrate the five practices. The guide is intended to help those who prepare and support aspiring and current principals probe these essential practices. Use this facilitator guide to explore options for using these tools.

These videos ask, “What makes for an effective principal?” And they answer: Five practices, done well. Listen as 13 school leaders talk about how they have put those practices to work. Identified by local administrators for their efforts to boost teaching and learning, often under difficult circumstances, the principals come from districts receiving Wallace Foundation grants to improve school leadership.

a critically-acclaimed PBS documentary that follows two school leaders determined to make successes of the difficult schools they lead – with specially-prepared materials to help users promote excellence among principals. Videos and conversation guides can be used by principals, state or district officials, policymakers and concerned parents.

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For additional resources from the Wallace Foundation, visit their website.