A report that proposes a range of policies to improve principals' preparation ignores existing research, lacks evidence and sidesteps both state and professional policies that directly address the sorts of problem it purports to remedy, according to a National Education Policy Center (NEPC) review.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) report, Gateways to the Principalship: State Power to Improve the Quality of School Leaders, written for CAP by Gretchen Rhines Cheney and Jacquelyn Davis, focuses on policies concerning the preparation, licensure, and retention of school principals.
The report identifies states it considers "lagging" and eight it considers "leading," saying that the "lagging" states should adopt measures implemented by the "leading" states to improve the performance of school principals.
"The lagging states are Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington. The leading states are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee."
However, a review by the NEPC's Think Twice think tank finds that the report makes claims "without evidence and arguments without foundation".
The review, written by Margaret Terry Orr, a professor at Bank Street College of Education and director of the College's Future School Leaders Academy, claims that the report's authors appear to be unaware of scholarship and common practices on the subject they seek to address.
Particularly glaring omissions include not using policy-related reports from the Wallace Foundation, the Education Commission of the States, and the National Conference of State Legislators that suggest how to improve school leadership.
The review claims:
"The report's identification of 16 focus states is never adequately explained. It does not define what it means when it labels eight states as "lagging" in their eligibility requirements for candidates admitted to principal-preparation programs.
"Very little in the way of supporting data is presented to justify [the report's] claims."
The sources cited in the report are seemingly inadequate, says NEPC's review. Only one is from a peer-reviewed journal while the rest are from organizations and foundations whose claims and assertions are "often weakly supported and poorly argued yet are accepted uncritically in the CAP report".
"The report has little utility for policy or practice," Orr concludes.
Instead, it merely "distracts from more relevant and potent policy strategies to improve leadership preparation."