Here’s an interesting statistic: Only about 20 to 30 percent of people who enter principal preparation programs intend to become K-12 school principals, according to the Wallace Foundation.
That’s troubling on many fronts, most obviously because of the looming shortage of school leaders and the importance of strong leadership to turn around struggling schools. And, “that’s a lot of wasted money,” says Jody Spiro, a senior program officer at Wallace.
The foundation is looking for innovative ways to not only ensure that most people who enter these higher education programs actually want to become K-12 principals, but also to find ways to better prepare those candidates. Currently, too many programs focus on managing budgets and administrative tasks, when principals really should be instructional leaders who spend much of their time in classrooms.
Wallace hosted a luncheon for state legislators at the National Conference for State Legislature’s annual federal relations meeting last week in Washington, D.C. Some of the best practices discussed included six-month principal internships, where a principal candidate not only shadowed an experienced principal but also was allowed to oversee programs and make decisions, as well as multi-year mentorships for new principals.
Several principal training programs, including one through Stanford University, have dramatically increased the numbers of graduates who become K-12 principals by more narrowly focusing their programs. Kentucky also has focused its principal training by creating other specialized programs for people who want additional training but don’t want to be principals, such as teacher leadership programs, according to one panelist.
So why do people enter principal training programs when they don’t want to be principals? Many of them want to go into different types of school administration or are merely looking for salary increases, Spiro says.
Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor