Chock Full of Data: How School Districts are Building Leader Tracking Systems to Support Pipelines

Education and Literacy

Chock Full of Data: How School Districts are Building Leader Tracking Systems to Support Pipelines

At one time, finding an assistant principal for a public school in Denver entailed a search through “a gajillion résumés,” in the words of one local school district administrator. Even then, some ideal candidates likely fell through the cracks. Those days are over, owing to the development by Denver Public Schools of a “leader tracking system,” a database of information about the training, qualifications and performance of principals and aspiring principals.
This Story From the Field examines how Denver and five other school districts have constructed and are using these systems as they seek to better train, hire and support school principals. All six districts are taking part in the Principal Pipeline Initiative, a Wallace Foundation-funded effort to help the school systems develop a large corps of strong school principals and generate lessons for the field.
In addition to aiding district officials in identifying strong principal and assistant principal candidates and matching them to the right schools, the leader tracking systems are helping in efforts to forecast job vacancies, pinpoint principal training topics and spot potential principal mentors. The districts are also beginning to use the systems to share aggregate information about the performance of principals with the preparation programs from which the principals graduated.
The publication makes clear that developing a leader tracking system takes time and effort. It describes, for example, how determining what information to collect, and then finding it, proved to be a key but time-consuming task, not least because essential data could be housed in different niches of the school bureaucracies.

July 2016

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Southern) / Florida / Hillsborough County / Tampa;North America / United States (Southern) / North Carolina / Mecklenburg County / Charlotte;North America / United States (Northeastern) / New York / New York County / New York City;North America / United States (Western) / Colorado / Denver County / Denver;North America / United States (Southern) / Georgia / Gwinnett County;North America / United States (Southern) / Maryland / Prince George\'s County

Districts Taking Charge of the Principal Pipeline

Education and Literacy

Districts Taking Charge of the Principal Pipeline

Six urban school districts received support from The Wallace Foundation to address the critical challenge of supplying schools with effective principals. The experiences of these districts may point the way to steps other districts might take toward this same goal. Since 2011, the districts have participated in the Principal Pipeline Initiative, which set forth a comprehensive strategy for strengthening school leadership in four interrelated domains of district policy and practice:

  1. Leader standards to which sites align job descriptions, preparation, selection, evaluation, and support.
  2. Preservice preparation that includes selective admissions to high-quality programs.
  3. Selective hiring, and placement based on a match between the candidate and the school.
  4. On-the-job evaluation and support addressing the capacity to improve teaching and learning, with support focused on needs identified by evaluation.

The initiative also brought the expectation that district policies and practices related to school leaders would build the district's capacity to advance its educational priorities.

The evaluation of the Principal Pipeline Initiative has a dual purpose: to analyze the processes of implementing the required components in the participating districts from 2011 through 2015; and then to assess the results achieved in schools led by principals whose experiences in standards-based preparation, hiring, evaluation, and support have been consistent with the initiative's requirements. This report addresses implementation of all components of the initiative as of 2014, viewing implementation in the context of districts' aims, constraints, and capacity.

January 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Western)-Colorado-Denver County-Denver;North America-United States (Southern)-North Carolina-Mecklenburg County-Charlotte;North America-United States (Southern)-Maryland-Prince George;North America-United States (Southern)-Georgia-Gwinnett County;North America-United States (Southern)-Florida-Hillsborough County;North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste. Fraud and Abuse

Education and Literacy

Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste. Fraud and Abuse

This report echoes a warning from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General. The report draws upon news reports, criminal complaints and more to detail how, in just 15 of the 42 states that have charter schools, charter operators have used school funds illegally to buy personal luxuries for themselves, support their other businesses, and more. The report also includes recommendations for policymakers on how they can address the problem of rampant fraud, waste and abuse in the charter school industry. Both organizations recommend pausing charter expansion until these problems are addressed.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Southwestern)-Arizona, North America-United States (Southern)-Louisiana, North America-United States (Southern)-Florida, North America-United States (Southern)-District of Columbia-Washington, North America-United States (Northeastern)-Pennsylvania, North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York, North America-United States (Western)-Hawaii, North America-United States (Western)-Colorado, North America-United States (Western)-California, North America-United States (Northeastern)-New Jersey, North America-United States (Midwestern)-Wisconsin, North America-United States (Midwestern)-Ohio, North America-United States (Midwestern)-Minnesota, North America-United States (Midwestern)-Illinois, North America-United States (Southwestern)-Texas

Rethinking Leadership: The Changing Role of Principal Supervisors

Education and Literacy

Rethinking Leadership: The Changing Role of Principal Supervisors

In the fall of 2012, the Council of the Great City Schools launched a two-part study of the ways principal supervisors are selected, supported, and evaluated in major school districts across the country. The first part involved a survey administered to district staff serving as principal supervisors in the fall of 2012. The second part of the study involved site visits to the six districts participating in The Wallace Foundation's Principal Pipeline Initiative -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Denver Public Schools, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Hillsborough County Public Schools, the New York City Department of Education, and Prince George's County Public Schools.

This report provides a summary of findings from both the survey and site visits. Part I presents a description of the organizational structure and general features of the various principal supervisory systems, including the roles, selection, deployment, staffing, professional development, and evaluation of principal supervisors, as well as the preparation, selection, support, and evaluation of principals.

Part II provides recommendations for building more effective principal supervisory systems. Based on the survey results and observations from the site visits, these recommendations identify those structures and practices that are most likely to result in stronger school leaders and higher student achievement.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Western)-Colorado-Denver County;North America-United States (Southern)-North Carolina-Mecklenburg County;North America-United States (Southern)-Maryland-Prince George;North America-United States (Southern)-Florida-Hillsborough County;North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

When Teachers Choose Pension Plans: The Florida Story

Education and Literacy, Employment and Labor, Government Reform

When Teachers Choose Pension Plans: The Florida Story

Although long ignored by education-policy analysts, the structure of teacher retirement benefits has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. The vast majority of teachers, like other state and local public employees, are covered by traditional defined-benefit (DB) pension plans. Now rare in the private sector of the United States economy, these plans provide a retired teacher with a guaranteed lifetime benefit, the annual value of which is typically based on his number of years of service and average salary during the final years of his career. A teacher is often required to contribute from her salary to funds set aside to pay for this plan, but the size of her benefit is not tied to the amount of any contributions.

Critics of existing teacher pension systems raise two broad sets of concerns. First, they note that the time lag between when the government funds and pays out retirement benefits encourages politicians to contribute too little to their pension systems, effectively borrowing from future taxpayers to fund current spending on government services.The shortfalls facing state and local pension systems covering teachers and other public workers due to persistent underfunding are staggering. Novy-Marx and Rauh13 estimate that achieving full funding of promised pension liabilities nationally over thirty years would require a tax increase of $1,385 per household each year. A more likely outcome is substantial cuts to public services such as education.

Second, critics note that the reliance on traditional DB pension plans makes total teacher compensation severely back-loaded, potentially hindering efforts to improve teacher quality. Most of these plans have vesting periods of five or more years and are structured so that employees do not amass substantial benefits until late in their careers -- at which point benefits increase rapidly. These features may make teaching less attractive to individuals who are uncertain of whether they will remain in the profession long enough to benefit or would prefer to receive a higher salary to support present consumption. Recent evidence confirms that DB pension plans lead some veteran teachers to continue teaching solely for the sake of increasing pension wealth, while encouraging others to retire prematurely so as not to sacrifice years of benefit payments.

The back-loading of benefits also imposes heavy costs on career-switchers and geographically mobile teachers, who typically stand to receive benefits worth far less than the pension contributions made on their behalf. The most prominent alternative to a traditional DB pension plan is the defined contribution (DC) model. Under DC plans, an employee builds up an individual retirement account through her or her employer's regular contributions throughout her career and exercises some control over how the account is invested. Because the value of that account is tied directly to these contributions (and the performance of investments), DC plans, by definition, cannot be underfunded. Rapidvesting, portability, and the smooth accrual of benefits over time eliminate the problematic end-of-career incentives created by existing DB plans and could make teaching more attractive to young workers, possible career-switchers, or those likely to be geographically mobile.

Finally, because benefits take the form of a personal account that can be converted into a lifetime annuity, the employee gains control over the timing and structure of her retirement benefit. An important potential drawback of the DC model is that employees, rather than taxpayers, bear the consequences if disappointing investment returns or poor withdrawal decisions yield inadequate retirement savings. Unions representing teachers and other public employees have vigorously opposed proposals to convert public pension plans to the DC model, largely on these grounds. Proponents of DB pensions cite survey data suggesting that public employees strongly prefer the DB model and contend that "when given the choice between a primary DB or DC plan, public employees overwhelmingly choose the DB pension plan."

Yet there is reason to believe that many current and potential teachers could find well-designed DC plans as or more attractive than traditional DB plans. As noted above, DB plans typically provide minimal benefits to those who do not remain in the profession (and in the same state retirement system) for many years. They may therefore be unappealing to a younger generation of workers prone to exploring multiple career paths before settling on one. Other teachers may simply prefer to exercise greater control over their retirement savings, either due to confidence in their investment abilities or to doubts as to whether public pension funds will be able to deliver on their promises. Consistent with this logic, a survey of Washington State teachers found that a plurality of teachers would prefer to invest additional retirement savings in a DC plan rather than in a DB plan. The extent to which preferences expressed on surveys correspond to the actual behavior of teachers when given the option remains unclear.

In this paper, we examine teacher preferences as revealed by their decisions when empowered to choose between alternative pension-plan structures. Since 2002, public school teachers (and most other state and local employees) in Florida have been permitted to choose between a traditional DB retirement plan and a new DC plan. During the time period of our study, school districts were required to contribute 9 percent of the salary of teachers taking the DC option to personalinvestment accounts in their names. Neither DB nor DC choosers were required to contribute from their own salaries to the retirement system, meaning that teachers' plan choice did not alter their take-home pay. The benefits of teachers choosing the DC plan vested after just one year, as compared with six under the DB plan.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Southern)-Florida

An Appeal to All Americans: National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education

Education and Literacy

An Appeal to All Americans: National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education

A national commission comprised of top education and philanthropic leaders is calling with new urgency for an increase in the nation's commitment to and civic investment in public education. An Appeal to All Americans also represents the first national and independently authored report to outline standards of practice for public and local education funds.

As federal and state governments make dramatic cuts to public education funding, the independent National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education urges the public to redouble its efforts to ensure that the nation's public schools provide a high-quality education for all young people.

The Commission, created by Public Education Network (PEN), was charged with making a renewed case for civic investment, highlighting the work of organizations that can build and channel that investment, and developing standards for the rapidly-rising number of citizendriven, local public education assistance organizations - local education funds (LEFs), school foundations, etc. - working throughout our nation to improve public schools.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Midwestern)-Illinois-Macon County-Decatur, North America-United States (Northeastern)-Connecticut-Fairfield County-Bridgeport, North America-United States (Southern)-Alabama-Mobile County, North America-United States (Southern)-Florida-Hillsborough County, North America-United States (Southern)-Maryland-Carroll County-Westminster, North America-United States (Western)-Washington-King County-Seattle

Building a Campaign for Reading Reform in Miami

Community and Economic Development;Education and Literacy

Building a Campaign for Reading Reform in Miami

Presents a case study of community organizing for school reform by Miami's People Acting for Community Together: how its campaign for a new literacy program shaped leadership development, district-level policy, school-level capacity, and student outcomes.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Southern)-Florida;North America-United States (Southern)-Florida-Miami/Dade County-Miami

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