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Leaders Leading Leaders: Take a self-assessment on the role of principal supervisors in your district

Headshot Scott JoftusScott Joftus

Posted July 17, 2018

Tag IconLeadership Development


How does your school district use the principal supervisor role to develop instructional leaders and improve school quality and student learning? This is the fourth summer that FourPoint Education Partners is posing this question to a group of principal supervisors from 15 school districts across the country participating in the Leaders Leading Leaders (3L) Institute.

Through a partnership with Omaha Public Schools, 3L participants meet annually in Omaha to wrestle with this question. In the 2017-18 school year four districts—Waukegan (IL), Racine (WI), Kansas City (MO), and Council Bluffs (IA)—also worked with FourPoint on a review that:

  • Assesses how the principal supervisor role is defined and operates
  • Identifies best practices for principal coaching and supervision
  • Identifies potential barriers to principal supervisors having their intended impact
  • Recommends ways the district can improve its support and supervision of schools

These reviews led to the creation of a new analytic tool that districts can use to self-assess their principal supervisor role.

Key findings from the four districts:

  • Overall, districts clearly define the role of principal supervisor as supporting and evaluating principals. That said, the districts also need to make clear that principal supervisors are primarily responsible for building principals’ instructional leadership and increasing student achievement.
  • Principal supervisors are responsible for an average of 13 schools, well under FourPoint’s recommended benchmark of 20.
  • Principal supervisors in the four districts spend about half of their time actually in schools, which is consistent with FourPoint’s benchmark.
  • The districts are close to meeting FourPoint’s benchmark of 75 percent of principals understanding and valuing the principal supervisor role—about 70 percent of principals in the four districts do so.

But the districts still have work to do:

  • Around our four indicators of success, no district scored higher than “emerging” on a rubric that rates from “not evident,” to “emerging,” to “effective,” to “exemplary.” The indicators are:
    • The district has a clear theory of action for school improvement.
    • The principal supervisor role is clearly defined to be accountable for principal development and school improvement.
    • Principal supervisors use effective coaching techniques.
    • Districts use a high-quality performance management process to implement key initiatives.
  • In general, FourPoint found that districts can greatly improve the clarity of what they expect all schools to do, or what we at FourPoint call non-negotiables, by:
    • Defining instructional leadership for principals and principal supervisors.
    • Creating a “through line” from classrooms to the superintendent’s office by implementing a small set of connected strategies to affect change at all levels of the system.
    • Focusing performance management efforts to improve implementation of key initiatives and, ultimately, teaching and learning.

The role of principal supervisor has evolved a great deal over the last five years for many districts, and the 3L districts—especially the four participating in the review—have taken important steps to leverage this critical role effectively.

Want to see how your district rates? Use our self-assessment tool to see what you’re doing well and what needs attention when it comes to principal supervisors.

Email Scott Joftus at if you would like to join the 3L Network or receive other technical support.

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