Research/Policy | Change Agents

Great principals are change agents, influencing all the conditions that determine whether schools and students will thrive. Setting the right bar for who can lead a school is a high-impact strategy for state action, with the potential to strengthen school culture, elevate instruction, and ensure that all students graduate college- and career-ready.

Unfortunately, many principal preparation programs fall short in equipping future school leaders with the skills they need to succeed, and state licensure systems rarely measure the competencies associated with effective school leadership. As a result, principals often struggle to manage the complex and demanding responsibilities of their role, blunting the potential impact of school improvement initiatives.

Change Agents lays out clear steps states can take to build a pipeline of well-prepared principals, including concrete recommendations for improving licensure and reforming accountability measures to strengthen evaluation of principal preparation programs. The companion guide provides a framework and tools to help state policymakers redesign their preparation and licensure systems.

“Our two organizations applaud release of this timely report, which will help states ensure that a high-caliber principal leads every school. 

Change Agents builds on New Leaders’ field experience, and gives states tools and strategies to reframe policies to bolster the principal talent pipeline.”

– Kerri Briggs
Director of Education Reform
George W. Bush Institute

Cynthia G. Brown
Vice President of Education Policy
Center for American Progress


The Importance of Leadership: The principal is ideally positioned to ensure consistent access to effective teaching for all children, making a focus on the role critical to the success of any school-level reform effort.

Principal Readiness Gap:  There is an urgent need to overhaul the current approach to principal preparation in order to accelerate the pace of school improvement.

Weak Licensing Requirements: Most state licensure systems lack rigor, are not closely aligned to real-world expectations and responsibilities for principals, and are disconnected from job performance.

Outcomes-Focused School Leadership: States must take action to improve their own process for principal preparation and licensure in order to get the best candidates into our schools.



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