Research/Policy | Principal Supervisor Network Design Toolkit

Across the country, system leaders are taking a hard look at the portfolio of schools that each principal supervisor manages, realizing that the structure of these networks significantly influences supervisor effectiveness.

As they aim to refocus principal supervisors’ responsibilities on supporting, developing, and evaluating principals, officials are redesigning school networks to ensure that supervisors are well-positioned to prioritize instructional leadership and are not spread too thin.

This toolkit shares lessons from New Leaders’ research on this subject, outlining questions districts and charter organizations should consider to when designing principal supervisor networks. It also provides practical tools to enable system leaders to develop an optimal network design based on local needs and goals.

Districts and charter organizations recognize that principal supervisors play a crucial role in principal and school performance.

The design of their networks — the portfolio of schools they manage — deeply influences their effectiveness, and taking steps to optimize that design can profoundly enhance student success.


This toolkit outlines issues districts and charter organizations should consider when structuring networks managed by individual principal supervisors. It also provides tools to set priorities for a network redesign, reviewing the implications of different models, and exploring key considerations to ensure that principal supervisors can access central resources and support.


Principal Supervisor Network Design Overview: This overview describes the theory of action behind redefining the principal supervisor role and why it may be necessary to redesign their networks. It outlines issues districts should consider during a network redesign, and describes key steps and resource questions in the redesign process.

District Vision and Context: This tool provides guidance for a facilitated stakeholder discussion to ensure shared understanding about the district’s strategic objectives for the redesign, and to gain clarity about the steps the district must take to achieve its vision for a redefined principal supervisor role.

Network Design and Implications TemplateThis tool leads districts and charter organizations through the network design process, exploring issues such as accounting for local context, choosing an overarching design principle, and creating and testing “strawman” networks to ensure the final design is feasible and aligned to strategic priorities.

Central Office Roles and ConnectionsThis tool helps districts think through the ideal role of the principal supervisor and ensure principal supervisors can access critical central office resources such as instructional tools, human resources, and facilities and operations support in the context of the redesign.



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