Leadership Keys: How to Get Great Principals, Use Teacher-Leaders

by | July 11, 2014

Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement, which Public Impact’s Daniela Doyle and Gillian Locke wrote for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, put a needed focus on the importance of finding the best principal for each school. By getting an inside look at the hiring processes of five urban districts around the country, Doyle and Locke highlighted how far short those processes fall, even in districts they deem “ahead of the curve.”

In response, the authors offer six recommendations for district leaders seeking to improve their recruitment, selection, and placement of school principals:

  1. Make the job more appealing—and manageable. Give principals the power to lead, including authority over key staffing decisions, operations, and resources. And give them a cadre of teacher-leaders to share the load today—and fill the pipeline for tomorrow (more on that below).
  2. Pay great leaders what they’re worth. Compensation must be commensurate with the demands, responsibilities, and risks of the job. Principals should earn considerably more than other school staff with less responsibility and should be duly compensated for producing success.
  3. Take an active approach to recruitment. Develop criteria to identify promising candidates inside and outside of the district. Actively seek out those individuals. Woo them when necessary. Identify and prepare internal candidates systematically—and early—and eliminate barriers that discourage high-potential candidates.
  4. Evaluate candidates against the competencies and skills that research shows successful principals demonstrate. Then create rubrics for judging candidates against those competencies. Train raters to use the rubrics effectively.
  5. Design the placement process to match particular schools’ needs with particular candidates’ strengths. Assess schools’ priorities and leadership needs, and develop criteria to assess a candidate’s fit.
  6. Continually evaluate hiring efforts. Develop metrics to assess each stage of the process, particularly in relation to the school results that follow.

(See Education Week‘s look at the report here.)

Public Impact has long focused on the importance of school leadership, especially when districts attempt to turn around failing schools—check our list of resources below.

And we see real promise for bettering the conditions for principals—making the role more appealing and strengthening the much-discussed, truly important pipeline of future leaders—through our Opportunity Culture work. Opportunity Culture schools extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay, within budget. One way to do this is by creating the multi-classroom leader (MCL) role—in which an excellent teacher continues to teach while leading a team of teachers, with plenty of school-day time for planning, collaboration, and providing daily on-the-job professional learning to the team.

MCLs can help principals tremendously. These teacher-leaders mean principals no longer bear sole responsibility for the leadership and evaluation of all teachers in the building. And while most MCLs take the job because they want to continue teaching, some will find the principal role appealing, creating a pipeline of future principals experienced as instructional leaders.

We all know how much school leaders matter. Let’s put some remedies into action—starting with these.

See more about Multi-Classroom Leaders:

Redesigning Schools: Models to Reach Every Student with Excellent Teachers: Multi-Classroom Leadership

Redesigning Schools: Models to Reach Every Student with Excellent Teachers: Multi-Combinations

Charlotte, N.C.’s Project L.I.F.T.: One Teacher’s View of Becoming a Paid Teacher-Leader

Redesigning Schools to Reach Every Student with Excellent Teachers: Financial Planning for Multi-Classroom Leadership

Redesigning Schools to Reach Every Student with Excellent Teachers: Pay Increases Example for Multi-Classroom Teams

Projected Statewide Impact of “Opportunity Culture” School Models

And more on turnaround principals:

School Turnaround Leaders: Competencies for Success (part of the School Turnaround Collection from Public Impact)

School Turnaround Leaders: Selection Toolkit (part of the School Turnaround Collection from Public Impact)

Using Competencies to Improve Turnaround Principal Success

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