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Arkansas State University

What Are the Responsibilities of School Principals?

Within their school communities, principals must be not only leaders but jacks of all trades. Whether in the big picture or the day-to-day operations of their school, principals must take on a wide variety of responsibilities that require an equal combination of skills. As the education publication ThoughtCo. puts it, “Being an effective principal is hard work and is also time-consuming.”

However, the challenge of being a principal is rewarding — effective leaders in that role can pay huge dividends. According to a two-decade-long research synthesis published in 2021 by the Wallace Foundation, no single variable has as strong an effect on student achievement as the quality of its principal. The studies found that by replacing a below-average (25th percentile) principal with an above-average (75th percentile) principal, students across the entire school would gain an additional three months’ worth of education during an entire school year.

That speaks to how deeply embedded a principal is in all facets of a school’s operations. For aspiring school leaders, Arkansas State University’s online Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership, Principalship program strengthens graduates’ skills in many areas crucial to their school communities.

Hiring Teachers and Staff

“The biggest resource a school has, however, is its people,” writes the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). One of the most important aspects of a principal’s job is hiring effective faculty and staff, which helps to prevent potential personnel issues, creates continuity and cultivates a more cohesive school environment, all of which are beneficial to student learning. Strategically sound principals can recognize the strengths and weaknesses of candidates and their alignment with a school’s priorities and culture.

Evaluating Teachers

Closely related to hiring, evaluating teachers effectively is another area of need for principals. Quality educators constantly learn new ideas to reflect on their teaching practices and offer their students the best education. Principals are often the starting point for this process. They help by “building buy-in, putting in the time to conduct observations, and taking care to ensure that (evaluation) ratings are accurate,” writes the ASCD. Just as important, good principals follow up with consistent, continual feedback and coaching.

Establishing School Policies and Culture

A school’s culture derives from its policies and their enforcement. Principals can create inclusive, equitable standards and rules for their students and encourage teachers to carry them out respectfully. Cultivating an atmosphere where everyone feels respected is one of the most important ways principals can create a strong school culture.

Managing School Budget and Operations

Principals are responsible for spending the school’s finances based on input from the district and other factors, many of which are unique to their school community. In addition, school operations can include responsibilities from testing to event planning, and a principal must manage them all to a certain extent. Personnel management is also crucial in this area, as principals must often delegate many of these tasks and be able to trust their co-workers.

Acting as the Face of the School

Principals lead their schools. They must often represent the school, whether speaking with parents or attending local functions on behalf of the community. Building trust with parents goes a long way toward improving the learning experience for students and keeping all parties on the same page regarding their progress. Similarly, building meaningful working relationships with other neighbors in the community helps to create connections and affirm local culture.

Coursework in the online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Principalship program helps educators hone these skills through focused coursework. Leading School Improvement explores the qualities of influential leaders, along with research-backed improvement strategies. Supervision and Evaluation of Teaching dives into the development and clinical aspects of teacher evaluation.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Principalship program.

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