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Do All Students Have Access to Great Principals?

This second brief in a series aimed at expanding our understanding of school leadership in Tennessee explores how principal quality is distributed across the state. TERA researchers find that effective school leaders are distributed unevenly across Tennessee schools. Principals with more experience and higher supervisor ratings are disproportionately represented in schools with low poverty and higher achievement. Additionally, hiring and turnover tend to drive the inequities we see in principal effectiveness across Tennessee schools. 


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Key Findings
Teacher improvement  
  • Principal quality is unevenly distributed in Tennessee. More experienced and higher rated principals are concentrated in schools with fewer students in poverty, low-achieving students, and students of color. 

  • Hiring and turnover drive inequities in principal quality across the state. Schools with higher proportions of students in poverty, low-achieving students, and students of color are more likely to hire inexperienced or ineffective principals and to experience greater principal turnover. 

This analysis examines principal distribution across three measures of school demographics--student poverty, student achievement, and the percentage of students of color. Principal effectiveness is measured using years of experience in a principal position and rubric-based ratings of effective principal practice taken from the state's evaluation system.

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