School & District Management

9 of the Year’s Best Reads for Principals

By Denisa R. Superville — December 31, 2019 4 min read
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Happy New Year, principals!

Before we close the chapter on 2019 and the book on the 2010s, we want to thank the principals and school leaders who shared stories, insights, and feedback with us. Our newsroom produced a lot of stories for principals (a few were about principals) last year and we’ll be doing even more in the year ahead. Reach out to us directly with your ideas at and

We curated a list of 9 EdWeek pieces from 2019 that will have staying power for principals in 2020.


Denisa R. Superville, assistant editor

Lesli A. Maxwell, assistant managing editor

These Students Are Doing PD With Their Teachers. Their Feedback Is Candid.

This story about students participating in professional development with their teachers isn’t just about principals fostering an open environment for this kind of honest and raw interaction to happen. It’s also about teachers and teenagers trusting each other to have frank conversations about what students think will work for them in the classroom—and teachers listening and acting on that input in real time.

8 Ways to Make Teacher Evaluations Meaningful and Low-Stress

Teachers often complain that evaluations are largely pro-forma exercises that don’t necessarily help them improve—though they are mandatory and are accompanied by very real and very high stakes. Here we provided some very useful tips to principals (from experts, teachers, and school leaders) on how to ensure that teachers get the most out of observations, evaluations, and feedback, and some common missteps to avoid.

Districts Struggle to Hire Black Teachers. Is the Solution Hiring More Black Principals?

The research that inspired this post by is compelling: Where schools were led by principals of color, recruitment and retention of teachers of color improved significantly. And, even better, math performance for black students got better in schools led by black principals even in the absence of black teachers. When EdWeek shared this with a roomful of district human resources directors, most agreed that they aren’t thinking strategically about how to leverage diversifying the ranks of school leaders as a means to diversifying their teaching ranks.

What Principals Learn From Roughing It in the Woods

Rappelling over a 30-foot wall? Hiking through the woods in the dark? Team building and sharing decisionmaking with other principals who are used to running their own buildings? Oh, my! This outdoor experience, part of the Missouri leadership development program for principals and other school leaders, takes principals outside their comfort zones for about 72 hours of leadership skill-building in the woods.

Principals, Here’s How Teachers View You

The relationships between principals and their teachers are so important and have such high stakes for students, so we asked our colleagues in the Education Week Research Center to explore how principals view their own leadership and how teachers see it. The survey reveals some striking gaps between the two sides and offers insights that principals may want to consider.

Advice for New Principals: It’s All About How You Treat People.

We all have those reflective moments when we say, “I wish someone had told me X” or “If only I had known Y.” That’s often the case for K-12 school leaders, whose first year is really a baptism by fire. But it’s also a crucial period that sets the tone for teachers, students, and staff about what comes next. Three veteran principals (including one who was heckled on the first day) dispensed some essential wisdom, inspired by their own experiences, for new school leaders.

What Principals Need to Know About Content

It’s not up for debate that principals need to know what good teaching looks like. But what about the subjects that are taught in their schools? This story explores whether principals should also focus on developing expertise in a broader set of subjects. Here are some tips: Focus on one subject each year. Subscribe to a journal that specializes in that discipline, and attend that subject’s PLC meetings as a learner, not a leader.

Schools Say No to Cellphones in Class. But Is It a Smart Move?

Cell phones have been around longer than even the oldest K-12 students have been alive, but school leaders are still trying to figure out that middle ground on whether and how those devices should be used in the classroom. Education Week’s ed tech reporter Alyson Klein dug into the debate, which has dragged on for more than a decade.

When Teens Are in Violent Relationships, Should Principals Step In?

That’s a very real question and one that many school leaders are not sure how to answer. In a survey the Centers For Disease Control released in September, 68 percent of principals said they didn’t have formal training to address teen dating and violence in their schools, and about 75 percent said there were no procedures at their schools for handling those issues, Arianna Prothero reported this year.

Illustration: James Steinberg

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.