A Framework for Principal Talent Management

Eva Chiang, Catherine Jaynes, Anne Wicks Humphrey, and Abby Hoak-Morton, George W. Bush Institute
Matthew A. Clifford
Mariann Lemke
Dana Chambers

Research shows that principals are a significant school-level factor affecting student achievement, second only to classroom teachers. Like other types of leaders, great principals recruit and retain the best talent (teachers), set ambitious visions for their buildings, and create a culture of collaboration and constant improvement. Because of this, it is critical that school districts implement policies and practices aligned with a coherent system of principal talent management, enabling them to attract and retain the most effective principals.

This Principal Talent Management (PTM) Framework is a guide to help school district leaders and policymakers understand the fundamental components and the interconnectivity of effective PTM systems. As such, the Framework is intended to support efforts to strengthen the policies and practices districts use in a holistic effort to attract, support, and retain the best principals.

Specifically, this guide does the following:

  • Highlights examples of these promising practices in select districts based on document review and interviews with district leaders involved in the systematic improvement of PTM in their schools
  • Provides a list of promising practices for each PTM component, along with the evidence that supports each practice
  • Summarizes the available evidence and expert thinking on each major factor and component of a PTM system, including working environment, preparation, recruitment and selection, professional learning, performance evaluation, and compensation and incentives


For district leaders, this PTM framework is a starting point for principal workforce development planning. While the evidence regarding PTM systems and components is still emerging, our review of research and practices suggests that there is no single prescription for effective reform. Moreover, the holistic approach that defines effective PTM systems is nearly impossible to implement all at once.

The district administrators interviewed for this report stressed that, regardless of the specific policies and programs implemented, the change process requires many years and consistent commitment due to the breadth and depth of the PTM framework, the changing state/national policy environment, and the deep institutional histories supporting current practices. Consequently, districts should focus on a stepwise or phased approach to PTM systems building.