4 reasons to revamp the principal supervisors’ role

Principal supervisors are more effective when focused on instruction, news studies find
By: | August 6, 2020
School principals say their supervisors were more effective and provided better feedback when focused on teaching and learning. (GettyImages/wellesenterprises)(GettyImages/wellesenterprises)

Principal supervisors should focus their time on developing strategies to improve teaching and learning, rather than on administrative duties, according to a trio of new reports released by the Wallace Foundation.

The first report, “Changing the Principal Supervisor Role to Better Support Principals,” analyzed how six large districts successfully shifted the principal supervisor’s role toward instruction.

Building principals in these districts also said that the supervisors were more effective in this role and had provided better feedback. However, teachers’ perceptions of their principals’ performance did not change.

The second study, “Leading the Change,” found that the six districts in the Wallace Foundation initiative were more likely to provide mentoring and had lower principal-to-supervisor ratios than other school systems.


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However, the report also found that many other large school systems are making similar changes to the principal supervisor’s role.

The final report, “Trends in Principal Supervisor Leadership and Support,” found that principal supervisors are overseeing fewer building principal than they were six years ago.

This reduction could reflect nationwide efforts to shift role from administration to principal support, the report said.

A separate Wallace-supported effort, the Principal Pipeline Initiative, found that a comprehensive supervisory program can result in student reading and math growth. A 2019 report by the RAND Corporation found that pipeline schools outperformed comparison schools by 6.22 percentile points in reading and 2.87 percentile points in math.

“Taken separately and together, these reports demonstrate the value of principal supervisors in districts’ comprehensive, aligned pipeline systems,” said Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at The Wallace Foundation. “Since those systems have been shown to result in benefits for student achievement, it is important to learn more about the role of principal supervisors.”


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