How are the most effective school principals prepared for their jobs?
A team of researchers, including School of Education faculty member Lauren Sartain, is seeking to answer that question.
In a project funded with a $1.4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, the team is working to determine the pathways that produce the most highly effective school principals.
“We don’t know enough about how our best school leaders were prepared, what it is that enables them to be effective,” said Sartain, an assistant professor who has researched a variety of topics related to urban education policy. “We’re hopeful that with this project we’ll identify practices in leadership preparation that can be adopted more widely in principal-preparation programs.”
The project is led by principal investigator Molly Gordon of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Other co-PIs are Jason Grissom of Vanderbilt University and John Easton, a senior fellow at the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research. Before coming to Carolina in 2019, Sartain worked as a researcher at the Consortium on School Research.
Analyzing possible links
The project will seek to describe how school leaders are trained, selected, hired and placed into their schools. Researchers will then use data on those school leaders’ schools, teachers, and students to determine any relationships between leaders’ characteristics, the leadership pipeline process, and student outcomes.
The project will examine data from Chicago Public Schools and Tennessee public schools. It will include all principal candidates and new principals in Chicago and Tennessee from 2006-07 to 2017-18. Principal candidates will include teachers, assistant principals, and other educators in who were recruited as potential leaders.
Researchers will gather and analyze three types of data: performance data on students and educators, data from surveys of teachers and school leaders, and interview and focus group data from school leaders, leadership preparation program staff, and those involved in principal hiring processes. Researchers will attempt to model leader and school outcomes as a function of various pre-service characteristics and leadership pipeline characteristics.
The project will focus on specific areas of the leadership pipeline: recruitment of school leaders, formal and informal leadership preparation, and the hiring and placement processes for school leaders.
The project extends Sartain’s research agenda, which has pursued understandings of the impacts of policy changes on students, teachers, and administrators. She has published and presented on a wide range of topics, including teacher quality, school choice and school quality, and discipline reform.
“I’m hopeful that this project will help uncover new understandings that will inform design of preparation programs, hiring processes and other factors that support development of effective school leaders,” Sartain said.
Read more about the IES award: https://ies.ed.gov/funding/grantsearch/details.asp?ID=3262