What do principal supervisors do when they support improved teaching and learning in schools?

Principal supervisors can play a key role in helping 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 understanding how their different ways of working matter when it comes to principals’ growth as instructional leaders. In districts ranging in size from a few thousand to over a hundred thousand students, we find that principal supervisors whose principals grow as instructional leaders are those that:

  • help principals lead their own growth as instructional leaders and
  • mentor principals one-on-one, and in professional learning communities, using particular teaching and learning moves like modeling and differentiation.

Principal supervisors whose principals do not realize those results tend to mainly direct, monitor, and evaluate their principals.

This page includes reports of our research and tools to help principal supervisors, Chief Academic Officers, and other district leaders use the research to ground principal supervisor performance standards, evaluation, and professional development.

Quick Links

Research

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

This book synthesizes our research findings and tools on principal supervision. Chapters start with extended examples and address how principal supervisors work with principals both in one-on-one settings and in principal professional learning communities, and how districts can support principal supervisors’ success.


Supporting Principal Supervisors: What Really Matters? (2019)

This article elaborates our initial research findings (now updated in Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach) on how principal supervisors use teaching-and-learning moves when working directly with principals one-on-one in their schools.


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)

In this article, we share our initial research findings (now updated in Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach) on how principal supervisors lead principal learning meetings from a teaching-and-learning approach.


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

This paper presents a comparative case study of the practice of 14 principal supervisors in three districts charged with supporting principals’ growth as instructional leaders.

Tools

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

The extended appendix of this volume provides specific tools principal supervisors can use to support their own growth. These tools include:

  • Performance standards
  • Two surveys
  • A Professional Growth Planning tool
  • Reflection and discussion questions
Principal Supervisor Performance Standards (PSPS) Version 3.0

This update to the PSPS includes 6 standards districts leaders can use to focus principal supervisors on parts of their role that matter most to helping principals’ grow as instructional leaders. The DL2 standards are research-based, measurable, and user-friendly.

Professional Growth Planning Tool

This downloadable version of the PGP in our book, aims to help principal supervisors lead their own growth by setting performance targets, developing learning plans, and monitoring progress. Principal supervisors also can use a version of this tool to help principals lead their own growth.