Key points:

  • A culture of continuous learning helps leaders, teachers, and staff grow and develop throughout their careers
  • Mentorship programs and intensive training are two components of a well-rounded system that supports academic leaders
  • See related article: How to reimagine teacher leadership

For new school leaders, the first few weeks on the job can feel overwhelming. As a former principal, I know that leaders can only be effective when the right systems of support are in place. In fact, a recent research brief by RAND Corporation found that 16 percent of principals left their schools in the 2021-22 school year for a variety of reasons, including high workload, stressed work-life balance, threats to safety, political debates, budget constraints, and a lack of growth opportunities.

This research continues to highlight why it’s imperative that schools and districts create a culture of continuous learning so that leaders, teachers, and staff grow and develop throughout their careers. It also shows the importance of building a comprehensive leadership framework that includes transparent expectations and includes specialized support touchpoints – from onboarding to thoughtful professional development opportunities.

To support the retention of exceptional leadership talent within your school or district, I’ve compiled a list of four best practices that I’ve learned over the course of my almost 27-year career in education.

1. Establish a pathway for teachers who are interested in becoming school leaders

One of the biggest responsibilities school leaders have is to be in tune with their instructors, which includes knowing and understanding their future goals and aspirations. If teachers are interested in becoming a principal or mentor one day, do you have professional development opportunities or pathways to help them gain the experience they need to take that next step? If the answer is no, then it’s time to create this pathway–whether that’s through job shadowing, courses that allow them to build leadership skills, or a collaborative project that allows them to work with other leaders more closely.

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