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Principals as Team Leaders: What I’ve learned from AREL and Education Pioneers

August 12, 2013 3 minute Read by Virginia Brown

Recently, Policy Studies Associates published a report on a partnership between the Wallace Foundation and six urban school districts working to improve the way they train, place and support principals. The report, Building a Stronger Principalship: Six Districts Begin the Principal Pipeline Initiative, describes year one of a project to strengthen school leadership in six urban districts in Georgia, New York, Maryland, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina. The Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) works with many of these districts.

Through this initiative, districts work together toward four primary outcomes: (1) high standards for leadership, (2) quality training for aspiring principals, (3) selective hiring of the most qualified applicants, and (4) ongoing evaluation and support. Policy Studies Associates, in partnership with the RAND Corporation, will ultimately determine the impact of these “pipeline principals” on school outcomes including student achievement.

I appreciated this plan’s holistic approach to principal preparation – these districts support aspiring principals from the moment they apply until well after they take the reins of their schools.  Through my own work as an Education Pioneers Fellow with AREL, I have come to understand just what critical influence a principal can have on student outcomes. I also understand the power of working together in a cohort of like-minded people.  The six districts are creating a better place for their principals and students through this Principal Pipeline Initiative.

As a Graduate School Fellow with Education Pioneers, I am part of a cohort of 28 Fellows across Texas working on mission-critical projects to benefit the education sector. My colleagues contribute their talents to districts, charter management organizations and nonprofits (including Teaching Trust, an AREL partner). They bring a variety of skills learned in schools of education, business, law and other disciplines. They are former teachers, finance professionals, nonprofit managers, Peace Corps volunteers and more. And they all have a deep commitment to ensuring educational opportunity for all of America’s children.  Every other week, we gather in Houston to share our work, talk through problems, and engage in professional development activities around key issues in education.

Education Pioneers also understands the importance of leadership in education, and my experience has underscored the importance of training and teamwork. Through effective management, principals can ensure that schools work in teams too. It’s exciting to see this cutting-edge research highlight the need to equip principals with professional development and support. While we all understand that we need great teachers in our classrooms, we also need highly effective principals to manage our teachers and ensure that schools are positive learning environments.  I applaud this report for spotlighting the importance of school leadership.