Research/Policy | Playmakers

Great coaches get the best from every player on their team at the most critical times. The same is true for schools: Great principals don’t tell their people exactly how to get every aspect of the job done. They focus on the right outcomes and choose strategies that make sense for who they have on the team. They are selective when hiring and provide feedback to nurture continuous growth. They create schools where the best teachers want to work and stay.

In Playmakers: How Great Principals Build and Lead Great Teams of Teachers, we identify the concrete practices that set exemplary principals apart from their peers, exploring how they assemble the strongest-possible staff and foster a culture where teachers — and their students — are supported to success.

The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, manager of 17 turnaround schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, used Playmakers to guide its principal development efforts.

All students deserve schools with a culture of achievement, where great teaching happens in every classroom, every day. Great principals make that happen. 

While ineffective principals can drag down school performance, successful school leaders build strong teams and bring out the best in each “player,” creating schools where great teachers love to work and students get everything they need to excel. 


Playmakers features in-depth analysis of leadership practices in over 200 high-gaining, high-poverty schools. Evidence from these schools indicates that strong principals improve teacher effectiveness by focusing on three priorities.

Developing teachers: Great principals set high expectations for learning, then equip teachers to meet them through ongoing feedback, quality professional development, and collaboration with colleagues.

Managing talent: Highly effective principals assemble a strong staff through a rigorous recruitment and selection process and by defining roles that maximize each teacher’s strengths. They set clear student learning goals and hold teachers accountable to them. And they prioritize instructional development, focusing on improving teaching and helping talented teachers to build leadership muscle.

Creating a great place to work. Highly effective principals foster a positive culture where teachers feel valued and supported. They share leadership so teachers have a voice in decisions, and they also uphold a uniform code of conduct so teachers can focus on instruction rather than behavior.



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