A New Role Emerges for Principal Supervisors: Evidence from Six Districts in the Principal Supervisor Initiative

Publisher: Nashville, TN Vanderbilt Peabody College and Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research
Jul 10, 2018
Authors
Ellen B. Goldring, Jason A. Grissom, Mollie Rubin, Laura K. Rogers, Michael Neel, and Melissa A. Clark

Key Findings:

  • Districts revised the job description of principal supervisors to focus heavily on developing instructional leadership and supporting principals.
  • PSI districts reduced the number of principals each supervisor oversaw and created networks of principals to facilitate collaboration and small-group learning communities.
  • PSI districts developed systematic training programs to develop supervisors’ skills.
  • Some districts implemented apprenticeship programs to prepare promising candidates to become principal supervisors.
  • Central office departments began to coordinate more with one another, creating a cultural shift and leading to structural reorganization to support the new principal supervisor role.

In 2014, The Wallace Foundation launched the Principal Supervisor Initiative (PSI), a four-year, $24 million-dollar effort to redefine principal supervision in six urban school districts. The initiative sought to help districts transform a position traditionally focused on administration, operations, and compliance to one dedicated to developing and supporting principals to improve instruction in schools.

The initiative was motivated by an effort to increase student learning and achievement by improving principal effectiveness. Research has shown that strong principals are integral to strong schools and to raising the quality of teaching. Numerous studies have pointed to the importance of effective leaders for teacher satisfaction, teacher retention, school climate, parent engagement, and student achievement. Principal supervisors are a potential point of leverage for supporting and developing principals, but relatively few districts have invested in such efforts. The motivating hypothesis of the PSI is that changing the role of principal supervisors from overseeing administration and operations to providing instructional leadership can drive improvement in principal effectiveness.