Preparing School Leaders

Topics: Leadership, Management, High school Pages: 517 (89415 words) Published: December 21, 2014
Principals play a vital role in setting the direction for successful schools, but existing knowledge on the best ways to prepare and develop highly qualified candidates is sparse. What are the essential elements of good leadership? What are the features of effective pre-service and in-service leadership development programs? What governance and financial policies are needed to sustain good programs? The School Leadership Study: Developing Successful Principals is a major research effort that seeks to address these questions. Commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and undertaken by the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute in conjunction with The Finance Project, the study examines eight exemplary pre- and in-service program models that address key issues in developing strong leaders. Lessons from these exemplary programs may help other educational administration programs as they strive to develop and support school leaders who can shape schools into vibrant learning communities.

Citation: Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., Meyerson, D., Orr. M. T., & Cohen, C. (2007). Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World: Lessons from Exemplary Leadership Development Programs. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Stanford Educational Leadership Institute.

This report can be downloaded from or This report was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and produced by the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute in conjunction with The Finance Project and WestEd. © 2007 Stanford Educational Leadership Institute (SELI). All rights reserved.

Getting Principal Preparation Right
Our nation’s underperforming schools and children are unlikely to succeed until we get serious about leadership. As much as anyone in public education, it is the principal who is in a position to ensure that good teaching and learning spreads beyond single classrooms, and that ineffective practices aren’t simply allowed to fester. Clearly, the quality of training principals receive before they assume their positions, and the continuing professional development they get once they are hired and throughout their careers, has a lot to do with whether school leaders can meet the increasingly tough expectations of these jobs. Yet study after study has shown that the training principals typically receive in university programs and from their own districts doesn’t do nearly enough to prepare them for their roles as leaders of learning. A staggering 80 percent of superintendents and 69 percent of principals think that leadership training in schools of education is out of touch with the realities of today’s districts, according to a recent Public Agenda survey. That’s why this publication is such a milestone, and why The Wallace Foundation was so enthusiastic about commissioning it. Here, finally, is not just another indictment, but a fact-filled set of case studies about exemplary leader preparation programs from San Diego to the Mississippi Delta to the Bronx that are making a difference in the performance of principals. The report describes how these programs differ from typical programs. It candidly lays out the costs of quality programs. It documents the results and offers practical lessons. And in doing so, it will help policymakers in states and districts across the country make wise choices about how to make the most of their professional development resources based on evidence of effectiveness. Drawing on the findings and lessons from the case studies, the report powerfully confirms that training programs need to be more selective in identifying promising leadership candidates as opposed to more open enrollment. They should put more emphasis on instructional leadership, do a better job of integrating theory and practice, and provide better preparation in working effectively with the school community. They should also offer internships with hands-on leadership opportunities.

Districts, for their part, need to...

References: UCEA/TEA-SIG Taskforce on Evaluating Leadership Preparation Programs based on
conceptual work by Orr (2003), national leadership standards (ISLCC and ELCC),
Leithwood and Jantzi’s (1999) leadership effectiveness research, and Leithwood and
colleagues’ (1996) research on leadership preparation program effectiveness
Program experiences. The study included six measures of program features. These
items were based in part on Leithwood and colleagues’ (1996) research on effective
leadership preparation and Orr and Barber’s (2004) research review. Two measures are
sets of items that used a five-point Likert scale (1=not at all
measuring positive (four items) and negative (four items) beliefs about the principalship,
drawn in part from Pounder and Merrill’s (2001) and Dituri’s (2004) research on aspirants’
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