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If you want great schools, you need great school leaders.

Starting From:
Limited autonomy, flexibility and support that do little to develop and promote strong leadership.
Moving To:
Leadership roles with clear goals, accountability and career paths, and the flexibility and support to achieve results.

What is the challenge?

We have found wide variation in what districts invest to identify, nurture, and support new principals–ranging from $500 to over $1,200 per pupil. On the high end, this can translate to over $100,000 per principal–but very few districts have systematic plans for measuring and developing existing principal capacity.

To move to a model that builds principals’ capacity to initiate, lead, and maintain instructional improvements, districts must clearly define what effective leaders need to know and be able to do. Districts then need to use that definition to hire the right leaders, place them in the right situations, measure their performance, hold them accountable, and give them the right career support. In addition, being deliberate about leadership development with consistency across the district will ensure a ready pool of high-potential leaders to draw on as opportunities arise.

Investment in School Leader Recruitment, Support, and Training

District Spotlight: Charlotte-Mecklenburg

In an effort to turn around its lowest performing schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District adopted a program called strategic staffing. Under this initiative, the district's best principals were staffed at its lowest performing schools. District leadership had learned from teachers that one of things they valued most was working with a highly effective principal. To encourage principals to move to sub-performing schools, they were personally invited by the Superintendent.  What was once considered a punishment was now considered an honor, akin to being named 'Principal of the Year.' In addition, principals were given wide flexiblities to reorganize the schools as they saw fit as well as enhanced central office support. The results have been dramatic. Students at these previously lowest performing schools have made double-digit gains in math, literarcy, and science. In addition, the culture has changed at these schools where there is a new energy and spirit.

CMSD did not stop with the lowest performing schools. Their goal is to have a "rock star" principal in every school by focusing on improved principal training programs and developing the principal pipeline. They work side by side with local colleges of education to develop principal licensure programs. They have truly made effective school leadership a core element of their strategy.

To learn more, read our District Story "A Great Leader in Every School."


Take Action

  • Define and measure leadership effectiveness in a way that informs all other aspects of the human capital system
  • Hire and facilitate the assignment of talented individuals who bring the right set of skills, as fully developed as possible, to each school and each district leadership role
  • Structure professional development, career opportunities, and compensation to encourage professional growth and retain the most effective school and district leaders
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