What do principal supervisors do when they support excellent, equitable teaching and learning in schools?

Principal supervisors can help principals grow as instructional leaders, but not all forms of principal supervision help realize those results. What makes the difference?

For over a decade, DL2 researchers have been walking alongside principal supervisors—capturing how they work day-to-day and results for principals. In districts ranging in size from a few thousand to over a hundred thousand students, findings show that principal supervisors help principals grow as instructional leaders when they:

  • Support principals in leading their own learning in partnership with their principal colleagues, and
  • Coach principals one-on-one and in professional learning communities using particular teaching-and-learning moves like modeling and differentiation.

This page includes reports of our research as well as tools to help principal supervisors, Chief Academic Officers, and other leaders use the research to strengthen principal supervision in their districts.

Quick Links

Research

supervising principals cover
Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach (2020)

This book synthesizes DL2s latest findings on how principal supervisors help principals grow as instructional leaders and the conditions that support principal supervisors in realizing those results. Chapters include extended case studies and examples. The extended appendix provides tools principal supervisors can use to lead their own growth including performance standards, two surveys, a professional growth planning tool, and discussion questions. (See below for PDFs of the tools.)

A Teaching-and-Learning Approach to Principal Supervision (2020)

This article summarizes the main findings of Supervising principals for instructional leadership: A teaching and learning approach, with a focus on the importance of these findings in light of Covid-19 related school closures and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Supporting Principal Supervisors: What Really Matters? (2019)

This article elaborates DL2’s initial research findings (now updated in Supervising principals for instructional leadership: A teaching and learning approach) on conditions that help principal supervisors take a teaching-and-learning approach in their work with principals.


Research Use as Learning: The Case of Fundamental Change in School District Central Offices (2017)

This article discusses how small and mid-sized central offices used the research on principal supervisors (and other aspects of central office transformation) to shift central office practice in support of educational equity.


Central Office Leadership in Principal Professional Learning Communities: The Practice Beneath the Policy (2014)

This article includes DL2’s initial research findings about how principal supervisors lead principal learning communities in ways that support principals’ growth as instructional leaders.


District Central Office Leadership as Teaching: How Central Office Administrators Support Principals’ Development as Instructional Leaders (2012)

This article includes DL2’s initial research findings about how principal supervisors work with principals one-on-one in ways that support principals’ growth as instructional leaders.

Tools

Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach (2020)

The extended appendix of this book features tools to help principal supervisors take a teaching-and-learning approach to their work with their principals. The tools (available in separate PDF’s below) include:

Performance standards | Two surveys | A Professional Growth Planning tool |
Reflection and discussion questions

Principal Supervisor Performance Standards (PSPS) Version 3.0

This tool elaborates 6 standards principal supervisors and others can use to help principal supervisors stay focused on the right work and continuously assess their progress. The DL2 standards are research-based, measurable, and user-friendly.

Professional Growth Planning (PGP) Tool

The PGP guides principal supervisors in leading their own learning by setting performance targets, developing learning plans, and monitoring their progress. Principal supervisors also can use a version of this tool to help principals lead their own growth.

Media

Marshall Memo 858: A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education (2020)

The Marshall Memo aims to keep principals, teachers, instructional coaches, superintendents, and other PreK-12 educators well-informed on current research and best practices. This issue features a summary of Meredith Honig and Lydia Rainey’s findings about principal supervision from a teaching and learning stance.

Book Review of Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach (2020)

Book review from Kimberly D. Clarida & David Edward DeMatthews on Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach.

Principal Center Radio: Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership (2020)

This Principal Center podcast features an interview with Meredith Honig and Lydia Rainey on how principal supervisors matter to principals’ growth as instructional leaders.

UW College of Education Podcast: Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership (2020)

This podcast from the UW College of Education includes an interview with Meredith Honig and Lydia Rainey on main findings from their book, Supervising principals for instructional leadership: A teaching and learning approach.