Mathematica released two new reports today examining the experiences of six urban districts that participated in The Wallace Foundation’s Principal Supervisor Initiative (PSI). The PSI was a four-year, $24 million effort to redefine the principal supervisor role to focus less on administrative duties and more on developing and supporting principals to be effective instructional leaders. The two study reports indicate that the PSI districts were able to successfully change the principal supervisor role to better support principals compared to other districts that were not part of the initiative.
The initiative, which began in 2014, reflects The Wallace Foundation’s longstanding commitment to improving student achievement by strengthening the quality of educational leadership. The two reports provide an independent review of the changes that resulted from the PSI and lessons learned from revising the principal supervisor role.
“We are excited to share these reports because we know that principals can play an important role in the success of their schools, but districts need evidence about how best to support their principals,” said Melissa Clark, deputy director of education research at Mathematica. “The reports show that it is possible for districts to dramatically overhaul the principal supervisor role to better support principals as instructional leaders.”
The first report, Changing the Principal Supervisor Role to Better Support Principals: Evidence from the Principal Supervisor Initiative, examined efforts that six districts (Baltimore City Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Des Moines Public Schools, Long Beach Unified School District, and Minneapolis Public Schools) used to reshape the principal supervisor role during the initiative. Researchers from Mathematica and Vanderbilt University concluded that these districts succeeded in shifting the role’s focus from administrative duties to helping principals improve teaching and learning. Principals’ perceptions of their supervisors’ effectiveness improved over the course of the initiative, and districts restructured their central offices to better support schools and meet their needs. The researchers found that the PSI did not improve teachers’ perceptions of principals’ performance on average.
The second report, Leading the Change: A Comparison of the Principal Supervisor Role in Principal Supervisor Initiative Districts and Other Urban Districts, compared the supervisor role in the same 6 districts with the role in 48 other urban districts that were not part of the initiative. The report is based on a survey that researchers from Mathematica conducted in collaboration with researchers from Vanderbilt University, the University of Utah, and the Council of the Great City Schools. The study team found that role-specific training, mentoring, lower principal-to-supervisor ratios, and other changes to the supervisor role were more prevalent in the 6 districts involved in the initiative. However, principal supervisors across all districts in the study reported spending most of their time visiting schools and meeting with principals, possibly reflecting a general shift in the focus of the principal supervisor role in recent years.
Read more about our studies to support principals in improving school, teacher, and student outcomes.