Program overview

  • Recruiting and developing school leaders: The Principal Pipeline Initiative (PPI) is a comprehensive approach for school districts to identify, train, and support school building leaders. By improving the effectiveness of principals, PPI aims to increase principal retention and, ultimately, improve student and teacher performance.

  • Developing standards for principals: Under the PPI model, school districts develop and adopt standards for principals that reflect characteristics of effective leadership (e.g., supervising quality instruction). Districts then integrate these standards into principal training, hiring requirements, performance evaluations, and professional development opportunities.

  • Providing high quality training: School districts provide prospective principals with preservice training either in-house or through a university or nonprofit partner that reflects the district’s leadership standards. The training program uses a cohort model, where participants progress through the program together, and integrates evaluation, so that the training program can be improved based on data on the performance of program graduates.

  • Carefully hiring and placing principals: The PPI model requires school districts to develop a rigorous selection process for principal and assistant principal positions. Preference is given to applicants who have completed a strong training program, and new hires are placed in schools for which their strengths would be a good match. To aid in identifying, selecting, and placing new hires, districts use PPI’s Leaders Tracking System, which compiles candidate profiles and performance data.

  • Offering ongoing developmental opportunities: School districts conduct regular evaluations of principals to assess the degree to which they meet performance standards that support teacher and student achievement. Based on these evaluations, districts provide principals with constructive feedback and relevant professional development opportunities. In addition, new principals are paired with a mentor who is an experienced current or former principal.

Cost per Participant
$26,590 per principal per year

A single study with a less rigorous design suggests that the Principal Pipeline Initiative is a promising strategy for increasing principal retention and student achievement.

  • A 2019 program evaluation found that schools with newly placed principals in PPI districts scored 6 percentage points higher in reading and nearly 3 percentage points higher in math than schools with new principals in comparison schools.

  • The evaluation also found that newly placed principals in PPI districts were nearly 8 percentage points more likely to remain at their school after three years than newly placed principals in comparison schools.

Note: This content is currently under review.

  • Encourage broad participation when developing standards: Developing a set of professional standards is foundational to the other elements of the PPI model. School districts should encourage broad-based participation when setting standards. Including stakeholders like existing school leaders, teachers, and district administrators increases the visibility and credibility of the standards. As a starting point, districts can use the National Policy Board for Educational Administration’s Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.

  • Secure high-level support: Adopting all of the components of the PPI model requires engagement with virtually all aspects of a school district. In order to redirect the work of busy staff over a sustained period, superintendent and school board support is typically needed.

  • Create an in-house preparation program: When school districts run in-house principal preparation programs, they can tailor the program to their priorities and have hiring managers to observe aspiring principals. The latter feature is especially valuable when attempting to match new principals with schools based on their strengths. For smaller districts, in-house study groups or an agreement with the preparation partner may provide similar benefits.

  • Maintain data on current and prospective leaders: School districts should adopt a data management tool, like PPI’s Leaders Tracking System, to collect data on the performance of prospective and current principals. Such a system can provide useful information for hiring, succession planning, and evaluation of the pipeline program. For districts without the capacity to adopt a dedicated data management system, keeping record of current and prospective principals’ training, career path, and accomplishments could be a useful alternative.

  • Develop performance assessments for hiring: Under the PPI model, school districts hire principals who demonstrate the capacity to meet the district’s performance standards. In addition to using data on applicants’ past performance and experience, school districts should use performance assessments (e.g., role playing scenarios) with standardized rubrics to assess applicants.