NEPC Review: Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, June 2014) and Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions that Enable All Principals to be Effective (George W. Bush Institute and New Leaders, June 2014)
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.