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Principal Concerns in Indiana: Focus on Developing Current Principals

There is a large body of research and policy attention on teacher characteristics, but surprisingly little on principals. This can make it hard for districts and states to make strategic decisions about their principal workforces. This brief uses publicly available state administrative data on principals and schools, as well as data from the U.S. Department of Education, to analyze Indiana’s principal workforce. Specifically, the brief examines:

  • How many principals are near retirement eligibility, and how is retirement eligibility distributed across schools and locations?
  • How many principals are leading schools with results that seem to beat the odds, and how many principals are struggling?

The authors find that two thirds of Indiana’s principals are expected to be still leading schools in five years. They also find that Indiana’s newest school leaders are at the helm of both low- and high-performing schools. In fact, some early-career principals are leading schools that appear to be beating the odds. Given the relative stability of Indiana’s principal workforce, the authors suggest that state policy and resources should concentrate on identifying areas that challenge current school leaders, supporting and developing principals on the job, and implementing a fair and rigorous performance evaluation system. This is the second in a series of state-specific briefs. An earlier brief analyzed Iowa’s principal workforce. A related report provides a guide to help policymakers diagnose their principal workforce needs and outlines a number of actions states can take, such as providing principals with more autonomy and making mentors out of high-performing principals.

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