Review of Lacking Leaders and Great Principals at Scale

These two reports focus on the need for more effective principals to improve school qual­ity. Each includes a sensible discussion of workplace conditions affecting the principal pipeline and contributing to leadership effectiveness. Great Principals at Scale recom­mends better school and district alignment of goals and strategies, along with district-pro­vided support structures and greater local autonomy for principals. Lacking Leaders examines the hiring practices in five school districts and identifies ineffective hiring prac­tices as contributing to a pipeline problem; it argues that attracting the best candidates will require additional remuneration, greater autonomy over staffing decisions, and in­creased district-level collaboration. The headline policy recommendation is to increase salaries $100,000 above current levels to attract more effective principals into the pipe­line. No research in the report, however, justifies the size of the salary recommendation or demonstrates salary as the most important factor influencing principal recruitment, selec­tion, or retention. Also, while both reports focus on the principal as the primary source of leadership in schools, neither considers other important sources of leadership. Both re­ports suggest leadership and management skills found in many organizational settings outside of education are easily or directly transferable to education. This suggestion, how­ever, underestimates the human context of teaching and learning. These and other limita­tions undermine the usefulness of the reports’ resulting recommendations.

Documents Reviewed:

Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement

Daniela Doyle and Gillian Locke; with Chester Finn and Amber Northern
Fordham Institute

Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions that Enable All Principals to be Effective

Gina Ikemoto, Lori Taliaferro, Benjamin Fenton, and Jacquelyn Davis
George W. Bush Institute and New Leaders