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States Elevate Principal Excellence through Leadership Academies


Alexandria, Va.—A new NASBE analysis charts how Missouri, Delaware, and North Carolina developed evidence-based professional learning for current and prospective school leaders to increase their effectiveness and reduce turnover.

Inadequate preparation and professional development are among the top reasons principals leave the profession, according to a Learning Policy Institute report. Missouri, Delaware, and North Carolina’s stories “highlight how statewide learning academies, mentorships, and peer-to-peer supports strengthen the principal pipeline and, in turn, build an effective educator workforce,” writes NASBE’s Joseph Hedger, author of the analysis.

  • The Missouri Leadership Development System (MLDS) connects principals with mentors and hosts professional development and networking opportunities for principals and school leaders at nine regional centers. Tiered support for principals at each stage of their careers has led to principal retention rates for MLDS participants that exceed the state’s average.
  • In 2021, Delaware launched the Governor’s Institute for School Leadership, which offers leadership coaching through the University of Delaware, a monthly Superintendent Study Council for collaborative learning and networking, and a three-year induction and mentorship program for assistant principals looking to move into principal roles. “Teachers will follow the school leaders they love,” said Dr. Michael Saylor, director of education excellence in Delaware’s education agency. “That investment in school leadership is important to us as a retention strategy.”
  • North Carolina began developing the Early Career Principals Academy in 2023 to provide professional learning for principals in their first three years on the job. The academy also includes an accelerator program to fast-track assistant principals into the principalship in high-need schools through professional development and coaching.

The analysis highlights state policy actions that drive principal professional development and lessons that leading states have learned about cultivating collaboration, buy-in, and continuous improvement.

“You have to study what you’ve done,” said Paul Katnik, who directs Missouri’s office of educator quality. “Look at what’s working, then build on it. Find out what can be done better and work on that. Just commit yourself from the start.”

Read and share “Strengthening the Principal Pipeline through State Leadership Academies.”

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