A Framework for School Leader Development

School leadership is an important lever for student achievement and well-being. School leaders create the structures that support teacher development and working conditions to help them successfully shape students’ experiences in the classroom. We also know that in order to transform schools and provide an equitable education for an increasingly diverse student population, leadership must move beyond what the principal alone can accomplish. Effective schools are led by a principal who builds and distributes leadership so the collective power of the team actively disrupts inequitable systems, policies, structures, and practices that create or perpetuate disparities for traditionally marginalized students.

TNTP has a long, successful track record of work with school leaders—and the nature of our work has evolved and diversified over time. It began in the 2000s, with a primary focus on supporting principals around aspects of talent management, such as hiring teachers who were a fit for their building and evaluating teachers appropriately. In 2013, we launched our first Pathways to Leadership in Urban Schools (PLUS) program to recruit and train outstanding school leaders. Through those programs we’ve trained more than 250 leaders in 7 cities across the country. Since then, our leadership development work has broadened in scope, ranging from leadership coaching and professional development to learning walks and strategy setting, and intersecting with all aspects of TNTP’s services across academics, community engagement, and talent development.

Our approach to developing school leaders—one that we’ve developed through more than two decades of work in classrooms—aims to support their instructional leadership practices so that all students develop strong learning mindsets and experience deep engagement and long-term transformative learning. Our Leadership Development Framework describes four domains we think are critical for any effective school leader, all focused on transformational, equity-driven instructional leadership:

  1. Unified Vision. Engage in an inclusive process with the entire school community (particularly those systematically marginalized or lacking power in educational processes) to develop a vision of collective responsibility for the educational success of each student, regardless of background.
  2. Designing for Equity. Acknowledge that most schools do not serve all students well and design the school to both disrupt that inequity and be responsive to the complex and evolving needs of the community.
  3. Teaching and Learning. Steward a strong instructional culture and team rooted in a sense of shared responsibility for realizing the school’s vision for a thriving student experience.
  4. Reflective and Empathetic Practice. Model a committed practice to both growing knowledge and fostering personal development and wellbeing in service of leadership for school transformation.

TNTP partners with school districts to help them meet their leadership development goals. We support the design and execution of a comprehensive leadership development strategy, from pipeline to career pathways and development along the leadership spectrum. We also offer support to individual leaders at all levels of the system, from assistant principal to principal supervisor. Based on individual context, our experienced coaches work with leaders through individualized coaching, professional development sessions, instructional walkthroughs, and/or summer planning retreats to develop leaders around key practices and beliefs that lead to success for the teachers, students, and families they serve.

In the face of teacher shortages and unfinished student learning resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we invest in supporting and sustaining school leaders. After all, the work for school leaders is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Leaders deserve and need support to drive complex school transformation. If you’re a system leader, how will you invest in your school leaders in the coming year, in the next three years, or even five years to ensure they are positioned to ensure equitable outcomes for all students?

Learn more about the leadership development services TNTP offers.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP