Quality Leadership Matters Blog


Principal Pipelines Turn Out to Be a Thin Slice of Annual Spending in Six Districts

June 20th, 2017 by


This report fills an important gap in the literature on school leadership by presenting an approach for understanding the district resources and expenditures required to put in place and operate comprehensive principal pipelines — pipelines for preparing, hiring, supporting, and managing school leaders — and by presenting estimates of those resources and expenditures. RAND Corporation analysts estimated school district costs for putting in place and operating principal pipelines based on data they collected from six urban districts that participated in The Wallace Foundation’s Principal Pipeline Initiative. These estimates could aid districts in making strategic choices about investments to improve and strengthen their principal pipelines.



Key Findings:


Overall, principal pipelines were not a big-ticket item for school districts participating in the Principal Pipeline Initiative. Districts contributed less than 1 percent of their total district expenditures to pipeline efforts.

Efforts Supporting Leader Standards Development and Refinement Had a Relatively Low Cost

  • Although districts devoted small shares of total pipeline costs to leader standards, districts devoted resources to leader standards in each year of the initiative.
  • Most leader standards costs reflected personnel efforts to develop and refine the standards.

Districts Varied Widely in the Resources Devoted to Preservice Preparation

  • Districts devoted substantial shares of total pipeline resources to preservice.
  • A little more than three-quarters of all costs for the preservice component were devoted to the delivery of preservice preparation programs.

Selective Hiring and Placement Efforts Had Relatively Low Associated Costs

  • Districts devoted small shares of total pipeline resources to selective hiring and placement, nearly half of which were devoted to investments in revisions to hiring systems.

Districts Consistently Devoted Considerable Resources to On-the-Job Support for School Leaders

  • On average, districts spent nearly half of all pipeline resources to on-the-job support and evaluation, most of which supported the delivery of on-the-job supports for principals and APs.
  • Main costs for on-the-job supports included costs for professional development, principal supervision, and coaching and mentoring.

Participating Districts Also Contributed Resources and Expenditures to Cross-Cutting Activities Supporting All Pipeline Components

  • The development and maintenance of LTSs was the largest contributor to costs for the cross-cutting activities that supported all pipeline components.


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