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Principal Licensure Exams and Future Job Performance: Evidence from the School Leaders Licensure Assessment 

Tennessee is among 18 U.S. states and territories that rely on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment when licensing principals. Researchers analyzed data for 10 years of Tennessee SLLA test takers, including their performance evaluations, student achievement in the schools, and they teachers' survey ratings of school leadership. They found little evidence that SLLA scores predict how a principal will perform in their job. Researchers also found that non-white candidates were 12 percentage points less likely than otherwise similar white test takers to attain the required licensure score on the SLLA, this making it far less likely they were eligible to be hired as principals.

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Key Findings: 
Teacher improvement  

  • SLLA failure rates are very different depending on the race/ethnicity of the candidate

  • There is little evidence that principal's pre-service SLLA scores predict available measures of principal performance for novice principals (ie. those in their first 3 years as a principal) 


With assistance from TDOE, TNCRED requested complete SLLA score histories for all SLLA test takers with a Tennessee affiliation from 2004 to the spring of 2014. Complete score histories means all scores, not just the passing scores. Score history files were matched by TNCRED research assistants to restricted personnel files (PIRS/EIS/TEAM) and school information for each year. Once scores were matched to a candidate/principal and school, they were then linked to school mean scores from the 2013 TELL-TN teacher survey, a school composite TVAAS file for 2013 provided by TDOE, and student-level TCAP math and reading files for 2008 to 2013.