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  • Writer's pictureRachel Langan

Solutions: Where Do Good Principals Come From

With recent research on test scores showing that students are still lagging behind in academic achievement compared to test scores from before the pandemic and concerns over a dearth of high-quality teachers, districts nationwide are looking for solutions to the wide range of problems they face.

One crucial aspect of the school environment that often goes unnoticed is the development of qualified, supported principals that can effectively manage teachers, build budgets and create a community of respect that trickles down to the classroom.

The Wallace Foundation commissioned a synthesis in 2021 that looked at 20 years of research and found that principals are a key reason why teachers stay at a school, Held said.

“Turnover rates of teachers are lower under more effective principals,” Held said. “And effective principals tend to better retain high-performing teachers and are also more likely not to retain their lowest-performing teachers.”

Effective principals follow four main practices:

  1. Engaging in high-leverage instructional activities;

  2. Creating a productive climate in the school;

  3. Creating conditions for collaboration and professional learning;

  4. and managing people and resources strategically such as using data to make decisions.

That 2021 synthesis from university-based researchers concluded that “effective principals are at least as important for student achievement as previous reports have concluded — and in fact, their importance may not have been stated strongly enough.”

Even though generally unseen, principals must be part of the solution to combat learning loss after the pandemic. Test scores continue to show that students are lagging behind pre-pandemic academic achievement.

20 years of research shows that principals play a vital role in student and school performance, it’s important that districts figure out how to develop a pipeline of principals instead of waiting until the last minute to fill an open principal position.


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