Published: September 14, 2007

Participation in Programs for Aspiring School Principals

Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center recently released the fourth edition of an annual report on school leadership, "Leading for Learning," funded by the Wallace Foundation. This year's report focuses on aspiring principal development programs and their role in producing effective school leaders. Such programs typically train or prepare prospective principals through curricula that are practical, driven by core competencies, and focused on improving instruction and student achievement. This Stat of the Week examines participation rates in aspiring principal programs.

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The EPE Research Center's analyses regarding participation in these pre-service training programs for principals utilized data from the 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey, released in March 2007 by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. Up-and-coming principals, defined as leaders having less than five years of principal experience, were compared to veteran principals, defined as those with more than 10 years of principal experience. The results revealed substantial differences in participation between the two groups. On average, 51 percent of up-and-coming principals had participated in aspiring-leader training programs prior to their appointment. In contrast, only 36 percent of veteran principals had done so. Overall, 45 percent of principals had participated in such programs.

Up-and Coming Principals Are More Likely to Have Participated in Pre-service Programs for Aspiring Principals Than Veteran Principals

The Research Center also explored the program participation rates for all principals in each state and the District of Columbia, finding wide variation across states. In 17 states, more than half of principals had participated in training for aspiring principals. Hawaii had the highest rate of participation (91 percent), followed by Florida (84 percent) and the District of Columbia (79 percent). At the other end of the spectrum, in ten states, less than one-third of principals had participated. Among them, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island had the lowest participation rates with 20 percent, 25 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Geographically, states in the South were more likely to have higher participation rates than those in the North.

Historically, school principals were expected to perform primarily administrative functions such as management of the school budget and coordination of staffing. However, in recent years their primary role has shifted in the direction of assuming accountability for student achievement. Increasingly, they are expected to show strong leadership with regard to improving the quality of teaching and student learning and, in particular, achieving adequate yearly progress or AYP. The implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the emergence of new research findings on the characteristics of good leaders appear to have played a role in precipitating this change. Programs designed to develop aspiring principals may help prospective school leaders prepare to perform these new responsibilities.

View the entire series "Leading for Learning" 2004-2007.

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