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Tools for the evolving principal

Resources for professional development in four key areas

To develop the skills necessary to be effective in the evolving environment of today’s schools, principals have several places to turn. Here are some ideas:

School improvement: Principals and would-be principals who want to learn how to manage drastic school improvement can take courses from programs such as the Partnership for Leaders in Education, a collaboration of the University of Virginia’s School of Education and School of Business. The Florida Turnaround Leaders Program, supported by federal Race to the Top funding, is also certified by the Southern Regional Education Board and offers intensive training in school turnaround methods.

Teacher evaluation: The National Association of Secondary School Principals offers educational resources focused on teacher evaluation, including white papers, policy statements and blog posts. Resources are available at The association offers two workshops for district leaders on this topic and is offering a post-conference day focused on teacher evaluation at its February conference.

Legal issues: Some school systems have added legal education to continuing education programs for principals. The Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia has a leadership development program that includes briefings by the district legal department about legal issues, says Larry Burke, director of the district’s office of leadership development. The system also has a team of attorneys to provide principals and district leaders with support and answers to specific questions. To stay on top of evolving issues that could lead to lawsuits or other legal challenges in schools. Robert McCord, an educational policy consultant and former professor of school law, recommends subscribing to the free “Legal Clips” email newsletter from the School Attorneys Council of the National School Boards Association. Subscribe at

Crisis communications planning: NASSP offers regular webinars and conference sessions for principals who want to better prepare their schools for crisis communications, says Bill Bond, NASSP’s specialist for school safety. “As a principal, your training never ends,” he says. “You have to constantly be trying to catch up with what’s new.”