Dear Friends,

At the helm of every great school is a great school leader. Principals set the tone, the culture, and the environment for learning. And, we know that principals are second only to teachers when it comes to raising student achievement. In fact, principals can account for up to a quarter of in-school factors that affect student performance. Strong school leaders help drive faster academic gains for Tennessee students.

When the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) did a statewide tour to collect and listen to feedback as part of the work on the report Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In The Nation, we heard educators and community leaders emphasize the vital role that school leaders play in finding and retaining excellent teachers, supporting teacher growth in their schools, and developing a culture of excellence with high expectations for all students. There was particular concern about providing sustained, strong leadership to better serve Tennessee students with the greatest needs.

To ensure principals are ready to lead excellent instruction and develop highly effective educators, they must have high-quality preparation and opportunities to learn on the job in schools with strong support systems, especially in the first few years as a school leader.

That is why developing school leaders who are ready to lead people and learning is one of five Excellence For All priorities. It is also why SCORE announced this week that we will be investing, through our Tennessee Educational Innovation Fund, in the Transforming School Leadership initiative to focus on effective preparation of new school leaders, recruitment and retention of turnaround school leaders, and development opportunities for rural school leaders.

To continue to support principal development efforts across the state, SCORE also is reviewing research and collaborating with stakeholders to develop and report additional policy and practice recommendations later this year.

Strong, effective principals are crucial to ensure academic success in every Tennessee school. As Governor Haslam said Tuesday, “It matters who leads.”

Very truly yours,