Assessing principal candidates 101

Understanding what’s behind data-based assessments that accurately predict principal effectiveness

Hiring the right principal is a crucial step in ensuring a school operates effectively and maximizes student achievement.

“A principal will affect how a school functions as an organization and how teachers operate within the school,” said PeopleAdmin Chief Research Officer Nick Montgomery. “If you hire the wrong principal, you really are missing the cornerstone for school success.”

Because principals have such a profound impact on the success of their institutions, Nick and his team worked with a research consortium to determine how schools and districts can predict the effectiveness of principals … before they’re hired.

“The research consortium is a group of individuals and organizations that are experts in the fields of research, education, psychometrics, and predictive analytics,” Nick said. “We worked with these organizations to identify the components that matter most for predicting principal effectiveness.

“The way we came together around this was by looking at a variety of components — the actions, activities and behaviors of a principal — and how those influence the school as an organization, as well as the culture within that school. We then looked at how that ultimately translated to student experiences and student outcomes.”

The research uncovered four domains that indicate principal effectiveness:

  1. Principal responsibilities — candidates’ knowledge of teaching and their understanding of school improvement factors.
  2. Leadership dispositions — their personality and values.
  3. Leadership skills — candidates’ creativity, decision-making skills and follow-though.
  4. Principal qualifications — their ability to meet licensure requirements, as well as their previous teaching and leadership experience.

Based on this information, PeopleAdmin created the Principal Educators Professional Inventory (Principal EPI)® — a 120-question assessment that allows district leaders or administrators to predict which principal candidates are most likely to be successful.

“The assessment measures those first three domains — principal responsibilities, leadership dispositions and leadership skills — and then an applicant tracking system would give the district access to information on their qualifications,” Nick explained.

After principal candidates complete the assessment, the scores are instantly available, sorted and rank-ordered with other applicants so it’s easy for district leaders or administrators to quickly identify who is most likely to have the best impact on student outcomes.

K-12 Education

“We have two ways of showing the information to those hiring administrators,” Nick said. “One is through a color-coding system that shows which principal candidates are scoring above average, average and below average. That goes from green to yellow to red.”

While the first method allows district leaders or administrators to quickly screen principal candidates, the second provides a more in-depth analysis.

“We also provide a really detailed view. Principal candidates read a case study and then provide long, written responses to standardized questions,” Nick said. “Administrators are able to access those responses, which allows them to really understand how that person is thinking about and processing information.”

In addition to assessing principal effectiveness, the Principal EPI generates a Professional Development Profile™ (PDP) — a customized guide that provides specific actionable steps to help principal candidates advance their skills.

“You get this look at where your strengths are and where your opportunities for improvement as a principal are,” Nick said. “It really helps you understand who you are as a principal and lets you leverage your strengths.”

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