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State Approaches to Developing Educational Leaders

A teacher and a principal talking while walking in a school hallway.

It is well established that effective educational leaders are important for student and teacher success. High-quality professional learning can support in-service leaders’ effectiveness by developing the skills, knowledge, and competencies necessary for addressing their full range of leadership responsibilities. However, recent data show that leaders’ access to professional learning varies across states and communities and that leaders in high-poverty schools are less likely than those in low-poverty schools to have high-quality learning opportunities. States can expand access to leadership development and make access more equitable by investing in ongoing statewide initiatives, such as leadership academies or institutes. Building the infrastructure for leadership-relevant professional learning can allow for long-term capacity building of a state’s leadership workforce and create opportunities for leaders to access a continuum of support over the course of their career.

The purpose of this study was to understand the infrastructure that states have built for leadership-relevant professional learning by identifying the long-term leadership development initiatives supported by states and analyzing their purposes, target audiences, and scope. We conducted a scan between March and May of 2023 using search engines, state department of education websites, and other web-based documents. We found that at least 26 states support ongoing statewide leadership development initiatives to build the knowledge and skills of in-service leaders. In addition to generally enhancing leaders’ skills, many initiatives fulfill more specific leadership development functions:

  • providing role-specific professional learning opportunities,
  • facilitating career advancement for aspiring leaders,
  • supporting the induction of early-career leaders into the profession,
  • providing support for leadership teams,
  • providing differentiated assistance for school improvement, and
  • facilitating training for supervisors.

This report provides examples of different states’ initiatives related to each of these functions. It also briefly addresses the federal, state, and local funding sources that states draw on to develop and sustain these initiatives.

The considerable variability in program function and design suggests many ways that states can build infrastructure to support leadership development and meet the professional learning needs of their educational leaders. For states interested in developing new, or improving existing, leadership development initiatives, the examples in this report can inform program design or suggest future opportunities for programmatic refinement and expansion.

State Approaches to Developing Educational Leaders by Julie Fitz, Marjorie E. Wechsler, and Stephanie Levin is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Core operating support for LPI is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Heising-Simons Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Sandler Foundation, Skyline Foundation, and MacKenzie Scott. We are grateful to them for their generous support.