How much do U.S. states know
about how their principals are prepared, licensed, supported, and
evaluated? Not much, according to
a recent report from the George W.
Bush Institute. Based on a survey
of 50 states and the District of
Columbia, the report—Operating in
the Dark—looks at how states are
using their authority to increase the
supply of high-quality principals.
States approve principal preparation
programs, establish standards for principal licensure, and can
collect and monitor data not only on how they recruit, select,
and prepare principals, but also on how well the principals
perform on the job.
The authors conclude that most states don’t use their
authority to improve the supply of high-quality leaders and
that states lack key data that would assist them in this task.
For example, 28 states reported that “neither the state nor
principal preparation programs are required to collect any
data on principal preparation program graduates to know
if they secure jobs, retain them, show impact on student
achievement, or earn effective ratings on principal evaluations” (p. 10).
In the absence of such data, most
states are unable to evaluate—or
hold accountable—their principal
preparation programs. The report
recommends that states should
■ Use more rigorous program
approval standards, track outcome
data, and hold programs accountable
for their graduates’ performance.
■ Shut down ineffective programs
and reward programs that show
■ Use performance-based assessments, as opposed to such
inputs as years of teaching and academic degrees, when
granting initial licenses to principals.
■ Base principal license renewal decisions on job
■ Further invest in statewide longitudinal data systems that
will enable states to track principals as they move from preparation to licensure to school leadership positions.
Operating in the Dark: What Oudated State Policies and Data
Gaps Mean for Effective School Leadership, written by Kerri
Briggs, Gretchen Rhines Cheney, Jacqueline Davis, and
Kerry Moll, is available at www.edweek.org/media/gwbi-20
In the Dark
Numbers of Note
The percentage of U.S. K– 12 principals surveyed who
believe the job has become too complex. 75
The percentage of U.S. K– 12 principals who say they have
a great deal of control over curriculum and instruction. 42
The percentage of U.S. K– 12 principals who feel very
satisfied on the job (compared with 68 percent in 2008). 59
Source: MetLife (2013). The MetLife survey of the American teacher:
Challenges for school leadership. New York: Author. Retrieved from