School leaders matter enormously. But are districts doing enough to ensure that the best possible candidates end up in these positions? That’s what Fordham examines In Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement.
Our primary finding: the practices by which school principals are selected—even in pioneering districts—continue to fall short, causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great. Yet better hiring practices are only part of the solution. Districts must also re-imagine the principal’s role so that it is a job that talented leaders want, are equipped and empowered to execute successfully, and are suitably compensated.
Among the lessons districts and policymakers should heed are the following:
Make the job more appealing—and manageable
- Pay great leaders what they’re worth
- Take a pro-active, wide-ranging approach to recruitment
- Understand the qualities and skills that make principals successful—and hire for them
- Match individual schools’ needs with particular candidates’ strengths
- Continually evaluate all of these processes to determine how well they’re succeeding—and make further corrections as needed