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Research Questions

  1. How do the outcomes of schools or students led by New Leaders principals compare with those of other schools or students in the district?
  2. Are program graduates hired as principals in partner districts more or less likely to stay in their positions, compared with other new-principal hires?
  3. Are program graduates hired as principals in partner districts?
  4. What are the characteristics of program participants?
  5. Are participants' assessed competencies associated with their later placement and retention as principals, as well as with outcomes in their schools or for their students?
  6. How do participants and partner districts view New Leaders and the Aspiring Principals program?

A growing body of research points to the ways in which principals influence teachers, classrooms, and, ultimately, student achievement. New Leaders aims to prepare transformational school leaders by partnering with districts and charter schools to offer rigorous, research-based training for aspiring principals. The Aspiring Principals program is New Leaders' signature program and has three core features: selective recruitment and admission, training and endorsement, and support for principals early in their tenure.

This report is a follow-up to the 2014 evaluation of New Leaders' Aspiring Principals program. Focusing on the revised program, which was first implemented in 2012, the authors present evidence of the effectiveness of the revised Aspiring Principals program and share lessons that can inform principal-preparation policy and practice.

To assess the effect of New Leaders' Aspiring Principals program, researchers analyzed whether schools and students led by graduates of the program outperformed comparison schools and students in the same district, focusing on student achievement and principal retention. They also examined program graduate placement and satisfaction with the Aspiring Principals program.

Key Findings

  • Students in K–8 schools led by New Leaders principals outperformed comparison students in K–8 schools led by other new principals on achievement tests.
  • Individual-level student attendance was higher for students who attended K–8 schools with a New Leaders principal.
  • New principals who completed the Aspiring Principals program were more likely than other new principals in the same districts to remain at their schools as principals for a second year.
  • New Leaders principals displayed competencies in the Aspiring Principals program, such as instructional leadership and adult and team leadership, that were related to school, student, and principal-retention outcomes.
  • A large share of Aspiring Principals completers were hired into principal positions by partner districts.
  • Aspiring Principals program participants and partner districts viewed the program favorably.

Recommendations

  • Evaluations of principal-preparation programs should examine multiple program features and outcomes at the principal, school, and student levels.
  • Principal-preparation programs can help build internal capacity within partner districts.
  • Within- and between-district analyses could provide complementary evidence regarding program effectiveness.
  • Multiyear evaluations are needed to capture the effect of program features on school outcomes because, for the program to affect students, participants must complete the program, be hired as principals, and remain in their positions long enough to have an effect on schools and students.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by New Leaders and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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