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School of Education and Social Policy

Principal, Policy and Practice Research


Principal, Policy and Practice (P3) Study

The primary goal of the Principal Policy and Practice (P3) Study is to examine the preparation, recruitment, retention and career paths of school principals through an in-depth look within Chicago Public Schools. Supported by funding from the Spencer Foundation, this work is undertaken in collaboration with the Consortium for Chicago School Research.


Although various lines of research point towards the importance of the principal for enacting school improvement, the knowledge base regarding school principals’ preparation, recruitment, retention, and career paths remains thin. In response, our study considers principal recruitment and retention from the perspective of both supply and demand. On the supply side, we are concerned with the preparation and career paths taken en route to principalships, as well as the preferences and constraints facing prospective principals, the characteristics of those who become principals, and the factors that impact retention. Given the professional and personal aspects of these supply-side concerns, we also explore how new principals become socialized into the role of principal over their first few years on the job and how they respond to struggles they face in their new positions. On the demand side, we focus on hiring policies and practices, decisions made by school district and Local School Council (LSC) hiring officials, and factors that impact whether principals are hired and later retained. Our goal is to generate knowledge that will inform school leadership policies and processes in Chicago Public Schools and other districts across the country.


We are grateful for the support of the Chicago Public Schools, the Consortium for Chicago School Research, and the Spencer Foundation in making this project possible.


Investigators: Jim Spillane, PhD & Michelle Reininger, PhD