Research/Policy | Great Principals At Scale

School leaders are critical in the lives of students and to the development of their teachers. Unfortunately, effective principals often succeed in spite of — rather than because of — district conditions. To truly improve student achievement for all students, well-prepared principals need effective tools, quality support, and a culture that enables them to thrive.

Great Principals at Scale outlines conditions that enable strong principals to lead school improvement across an entire system. The Great Principals at Scale Toolkit is a companion resource to help school system leaders assess and improve their current leadership conditions.

Great Principals at Scale was produced in partnership by New Leaders and the Bush Institute’s Alliance to Reform Educational Leadership (AREL). The report represents the culmination of the Conditions for Effective Leadership Project, which engaged leading researchers and practitioners to generate a comprehensive framework outlining district conditions needed to enable great school leadership.

“We all love stories of superhero principals, the inspiring leaders who work wonders turning a school around.

The reality, of course, is that there are not enough superheroes to lead every school in the country. School districts can’t wait for them to emerge, either. They need to create the conditions that produce strong leaders, the kind who will improve the achievement of a school’s students.”

— Margaret Spellings
U.S. Secretary of Education, 2005-2009
Houston Chronicle


Conditions that effective school systems have in place to enable principal success include:

  • Alignment among goals, strategies, structures, and resources, so that the work of every staff member supports system-wide goals focused on increasing student achievement
  • A culture of collective responsibility, balanced autonomy, and continuous learning and improvement
  • Effective management and support for principals with ongoing opportunities for development and feedback — and most notably, roles and responsibilities that are feasible
  • Systems and policies to effectively manage talent at the school-level.



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