Operating in the DarkAfter years of focus on lifting teacher quality, attention is—slowly—turning to the need to do the same for school leaders. This new report from the George W. Bush Institute (GWBI) adds to this freshening conversation: It offers recommendations for how states can take charge to improve the quality of school leadership. Drawing on survey responses from education departments in all fifty states and D.C., the report identifies four areas of focus: principal prep-program accreditation, licensure requirements, principal-effectiveness standards, and collection and dissemination of job-performance data. On all, states are lacking. For example, nineteen states couldn’t report how many principals are trained annually within their borders, and twenty-eight don’t collect job performance data. Further, only six require current principals to demonstrate effectiveness before renewing their licenses (typically done every five years or so). Two overarching policy recommendations arise. First, each state must clearly define what it means to be “effective” and regulate preparation and licensure programs accordingly. Second, states must develop data-collection systems that track principals from preparation to licensure to job placement, and use these data to close ineffective prep programs and revoke the licenses of incapable principals. Though the report is jargon-laden at times, its advice is sound.

SOURCE: Kerri Briggs, Gretchen Rhines Cheney, Jacquelyn Davis, and Kerry Moll, Operating in the Dark: What Outdated State Policies and Data Gaps Mean for Effective School Leadership (Dallas, TX: George W. Bush Institute Special Report, February 2013).

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