CUEL affiliate and UIC Professor Emeritus Dr. Steve Tozer recently co-authored an extensive report on the learning experiences associated with of high-quality principal preparation with Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and other colleagues from the Learning Policy Institute (or LPI). The report extends a 2007 investigation by Darling-Hammond and colleagues, co-produced with the Wallace Foundation, showing that effective principal preparation and development programs could transform principals’ practice and increase their success by proactively recruiting dynamic, instructionally focused educators; developing and applying strong knowledge of instructional leadership, organizational development, and change management practices; and offering coaching, feedback, and opportunities for reflection in purposeful communities of practice. Since then, there has been a growing knowledge base about principal learning opportunities that foster positive educational experiences and outcomes. Major changes in policies have also altered the principal learning landscape.

This new report, published in May 2022 with support from the Wallace Foundation, reviews the research literature since 2000 to understand the elements of high-quality programs and learning experiences that have been associated with positive outcomes, including principals’ sense of preparedness, efficacy, and reported practices, staff perceptions of school climate, teacher retention, and student achievement. It also examines the extent to which principals have opportunities to participate in learning experiences with those elements and the policies that drive both the development of high-quality programs and access to them. The study drew on evidence both from the growing literature base and survey data from representative national samples of principals affiliated with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals as well as two statewide samples: one from California and one from North Carolina. Among the conclusions, the authors report that nationally principal preparation candidates enjoy greater access to relevant, high quality course content, but are less likely to access the most powerful learning experiences, including sustained in-situ internships and high-quality coaching support. But policies targeted to these experiences have increased their availability in several states. The report concludes with a call for more research keyed to identifying the modes of learning that build early career school leader capacity and support improved and more equitable student outcomes.

Darling-Hammond, L., Wechsler, M. E., Levin, S., & Tozer, S. (2022). Developing Effective Principals: What Kind of Learning Matters? Learning Policy Institute can be found on the Wallace Foundation website at