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Setting the Example: Bush Institute's Principal Talent Management Framework

The Chicago Public Education Fund's Principal Quality Community of Practice used the George W. Bush Institute’s Principal Talent Management Framework as a guidepost to diagnose areas of improvements in school leadership.

Article by Anne Wicks and Eva Myrick Chiang, Ph.D. July 2, 2018 //   4 minute read

Recently, the Chicago Public Education Fund convened about a dozen organizations who work with different school districts at the local, state, and national level to discuss how school districts can improve the way they prepare, recruit, support, and retain great principals. This Principal Quality Community of Practice, supported by the Joyce Foundation, used the George W. Bush Institute’s Principal Talent Management Framework as a guidepost to diagnose areas of improvements in school leadership.

Prior to the workshop, each team assessed the status of a district in their region according to six strands outlined in the framework: working environment, preparation, recruitment and selection, professional learning, performance evaluation, and compensation and incentives. The Framework proved helpful in a number of ways. For the first time, some organizations were exposed to best practices for principal talent management, and provided a straight-forward way to help them organize their work. This was coupled with a focus by the Chicago Public Fund on effective implementation, which mirrors the work the Bush Institute is doing in our School Leadership Initiative by helping districts improve how they implement and sustain their work.

Also, the Framework helped participants make some big decisions. For example, one participant mentioned that the Framework was confirming what her instincts were telling her, but provided the right amount of evidence to help her scope the work she wanted to do with districts.   

Finally, hearing the questions raised in the community of practice highlighted where others in the field are still struggling. In some component areas we have pretty solid answers on best practices. For example, we know what makes principal evaluation systems effective. In others, however, the answer is not so clear.

The Bush Institute’s framework is also being implemented and tested across four school districts as part of the School Leadership Initiative. Similar questions are arising as we meet with those districts and work through the different component areas. The districts consistently want to know how to provide principal support and professional learning. This is not an easy task, especially since we believe strongly that most professional learning for principals should be job embedded. And, in order to truly target what type of professional learning a principal needs, we have to first have a reliable understanding of their strengths and gaps. That is why we started our work with improving principal evaluation systems. We are hopeful by working through the components of the framework we empower districts to provide the necessary support and professional learning principals are asking for.

Each school district has different challenges, but opportunities like the Principal Quality Community of Practice allow for collaboration. Some of the organizations left the working sessions adopting the framework and others used it as a tool to reinforce their current work.