Teachers work together at a table.

Strengthening School Leadership in Massachusetts

New report examines challenges and opportunities for ensuring every school has an effective principal.

School leaders are integral to student achievement and school success. This is true in large and small schools. It is true in rural and urban schools. It is true across traditional public districts, public charter organizations, and independent schools. Every school and student benefits from an effective principal. Yet, the goal of having an effective principal in every school is elusive.

Finding and keeping high-quality principals is always a challenge. These challenges are only exacerbated in schools that struggle to support all students. In 2017, fifty-six percent of newly-hired Massachusetts principals had never held a principal role before. Schools with the highest percentage of students experiencing poverty were also most likely to be led by novice principals.

To better understand what contributes to this challenge, and what potential solutions may be, the Barr Foundation assembled a dedicated group of Massachusetts district leaders, state education leaders, charter management organization leaders, and education funders. We engaged Attuned Education Partners to facilitate a collective research and learning process into the challenges, exemplary approaches, and opportunities to advance positive change related to the principalship. Through that process, the group identified four challenges to strengthening the principalship that are underscored by research:

  • The type and quality of training new principals receive.
  • Factors contributing to (and limiting) diversity of principal candidates.
  • On-the-job coaching.
  • The principal’s scope of responsibilities.

Drawing on published research, publicly-available data on Massachusetts school leaders, and the working group’s own experiences (including knowledge of successful approaches), we are pleased to release this new report: Strengthening School Leadership in Massachusetts.

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Download the report Download the executive summary

At the Barr Foundation, our Education Program is rooted in the belief that all young people can succeed in learning, work, and life. We support efforts throughout New England that are led by educators, parents and community partners, who share this view, and who are working to expand access to schools that make that vision a reality. We are inspired by leaders whose schools are models of what it looks like to support all students to be successful. We hope this new research helps illuminate why such leaders have been in short supply in Massachusetts, and what some of the opportunities are to change that.

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Leah Hamilton

Former Director of Education