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Reading List: Ensuring Effective Leadership

Principal Supply and Distribution

**Roza, M., Celio, M. B., Harvey, J., Wishon, S. (2003) A matter of definition: Is there truly a shortage of principals? Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education. Available at

This report presents data on what we know about principal supply and principal demand, gathered via interviews of district superintendents, school staff, and state officials. This study finds that, despite the view of a shortage of school principals, “shortages” are not the norm. The authors report that perceptions of the “shortage” are driven by demands for a new and different kind of school principal. There are plenty of “certified” applicants, but there seems to be a dearth of candidates with high-level leadership skills.

Mitgang, L. D. (2003). Beyond the pipeline: Getting the principals we need where they are needed most. New York, NY: The Wallace Foundation. Available at

This brief describes the current labor market for principals by drawing on three different projects: 1) an analysis of existing data on the national supply and career paths of school administrators, 2) an analysis drawing on a survey of 83 schools districts that examines the dimensions and implications of the labor market for principals, and 3) an examination of the attributes and career paths of New York principals. The author concludes that efforts to improve principal supply must move beyond policies aimed solely at increasing the number of certified candidates. Attention and resources must be directed to adjusting incentives, bring recruitment and hiring practices in line with heightened expectations for principal performance, and redefining the job in ways that principals can emphasize student learning above all else.

Corcoran, S. P., Schwartz, A. E., Weinstein, M. (2009). The New York City aspiring principals program: A school-level evaluation. New York, NY: Institute for Education and Social Policy. Available at

This report describes New York City Department of Education’s program to increase the pool of qualified school administrators through the creation of the New York City Leadership Academy and an Aspiring Principals Program (APP). This Academy, with the goal of taking on a greater responsibility for developing school leaders, recruited, prepared and supported the professional development of aspiring and sitting principals from within the district. This repot compares student outcomes at schools led by APP graduates to those in comparable schools led by other new principals. The authors find that APP graduates were demographically distinct from the comparison principals, and that they were more likely to be placed in schools that were low-performing. However, controlling for pre-existing differences in student demographics and achievement, APP principals bettered their comparison group counterparts in ELA performance in elementary and middle schools.

Effective Leadership Practices

Spillane, J.P. (2005). Distributed leadership. The Educational Forum, 69(143), 143-150. Available at

This article explores the concept of distributed leadership in schools, with the author outlining his definition of distributed leadership. In particular, the author emphasized the notion of distributed leadership as interactions between people and their situation, not a mere product of the leader’s knowledge and skill. The interactions among individuals, not the actions of individuals, are critical in leadership practice.

WestEd & Association of California School Administrators. (2001). California professional standards for educational leaders. Available at

This brief describes six quality standards for site and district leaders as well as indicators of leadership action that contribute to meeting the standards. These leadership standards provide an overview of what successful leaders do and are useful for setting a general course for leadership preparation, professional development activities, administrator certification, and district assessments.

Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2006). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership. Nottingham: National College for School Leadership. Available at

The authors use their review of existing literature on school leadership to present seven “strong claims” about successful school leadership. The seven claims are individually described with details on their supporting evidence from the literature.

Wallach, C.A., Lambert, M.B., Copland, M., & Lowry, L.K. (2005). Distributing leadership: Moving from high school hierarchy to shared responsibility. Small Schools Project. Available at

This report provides a description of the Small Schools Project which started in 2000 with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report describes how leadership is distributed in seven redesigned small high schools. The authors describe how leadership roles changed over the span of two years, and how new structures to build capacity and to distribute decision making have emerged since the inception of the project.

Leadership for School Transformation

Copland, M.A., & Boatright, E. (2006). Leadership for transforming high schools. Seattle, WA: Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy. Available at

This report offers an overview of leadership for transforming high schools, examining why evidence suggests that what transpires for students inside the high school classroom remains resistant to change. The authors propose a set of leadership activities important for transforming schools followed by questions relating to how effective leadership might be accomplished in these schools.

Hassel, E.A., & Hassel, B. (2009). The big u-turn: How to bring schools from the brink of doom to stellar success. Education Next, 9(1), 21-27. Available at

This article examines cross-sector research on successful turnaround within organizations to suggest a strategy for accelerating successful turnaround in education, using the examples of Continental Airlines and the New York Police Department as illustrations. The authors first identify six key actions that occur in stories of successful turnarounds, suggesting that these actions will also be useful in school turnaround.. They then recommend that state and district leaders focus on two critical policy changes: (1) creating political will by developing the capacity to take charge of failing schools when districts don’t act and (2) fueling the pipeline of K-12 turnaround leaders.

**This document is considered a priority reading.