Exploring principals' perceptions about potential and readiness for the principalship in assistant principals : a case study
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Research has documented the need for school districts to recruit and retain qualified school leaders capable of navigating the organizational challenges for school improvement, particularly in high-poverty, low-achievement contexts. Recently, scholars have studied principal pipeline structures implemented by school districts to recruit and retain effective principals. A key finding of this research is that clearly-defined standards and performance criteria can inform school districts' strategic identification and development of individuals with the potential to become effective principals. Further research is needed to understand and define potential and readiness for the principalship in assistant principals, commonly the largest candidate group in a principal pipeline. I used a qualitative case study design to investigate veteran principals' perceptions about potential and readiness for the principalship in assistant principals. Six principals in one urban school in Texas were purposefully selected based on their experience with supporting, developing, and/or endorsing former assistant principals for promotion to the principalship while under their supervision. I collected data through questionnaires and in-depth interviews to understand this phenomenon through the informants' lived experience. I found that the principals view professional competence and personal dispositions as indicators of potential and readiness for the principalship. They believe an assistant principal's potential to perform as a principal is evident in the processes and products of their work, but they don't believe all high-potentials are necessarily ready to become principals. Shared leadership was instrumental to developing readiness for the principalship in their assistant principals, and developing capacity by building on strength and targeting weakness worked equally well in their experience. Using these findings and existing research, I identify state and district-level policy implications for the field. I also make recommendations for further study of this topic in the future.