Principal Leadership

The Network for College Success began by partnering with a group of high school principals, and that relationship remains central to our efforts today.

Principals are the key change agents in schools. Their actions have direct and indirect effects on school environments and student achievement. Research shows that effective principals provide focus and direction to curriculum and instruction. That leadership is critical in whether schools can create equitable conditions under which learning improves. Our partner, the UChicago Consortium on School Research, has found that strong principal leadership is a primary catalyst for school improvement. NCS partners with principals to create school environments that value and honor the brilliance of every student. We directly support principals to use continuous improvement to move the key levers for student success:

  • Improving teaching and learning.
  • Ensuring that students are On-Track during freshman year.
  • Increasing student GPA.
  • Readying students for college enrollment and persistence.

Our approach also helps principals develop other leaders and high-functioning teams to create sustainable changes in the school building.

Principals’ Collaborative

NCS accomplishes this work by bringing principals together in our partner schools for a cross-school Collaborative, or professional learning community. Led by our Leadership Coaches, the Principals' Collaborative meetings center around key goals for school improvement. In addition, the sessions typically include discussions on research and ongoing analyses of each school's performance on critical indicators to improve student outcomes.

Each Collaborative meeting focuses on a specific topic that all schools are working to improve, such as developing antiracist school practices and policies, building students' non-cognitive skills, or integrating the Common Core State Standards. Principals raise problems of practice and work with each other to problem solve. Sharing ideas and techniques from various schools transfers innovation—and we consistently hear from participants that it's both instrumental and a rare opportunity to collaborate with other principals. Everyone benefits from each other's strengths and experiences.

One-on-One Executive Coaching

Each principal has a dedicated NCS Leadership Coach who visits the school at least twice a month to discuss the ideas and research shared in the Collaborative meetings and help apply strategies to that school's unique context. Coaching sessions are structured to improve the principal's capacity to develop targeted teams at the school and create systems to implement plans with an equity lens.

From the start, NCS recognizes each principal's essential and unique role in a school. Our Collaborative and coaching give these crucial school leaders new resources and ideas so they can be the primary source of improvement in their building. Click here to explore our other focus areas.