A Research Synthesis of the Role of Assistant Principals and Pathways to the Principalship


Project Overview


To provide the education field greater clarity about the assistant principal role and how to best prepare and support assistant principals and prepare them for success as principals.

Project Motivation

Mathematica partnered with Vanderbilt University to synthesize two decades of research on assistant principals and perform new analyses of existing data to shed light on this increasingly prevalent, yet often overlooked education leadership role. 

Partners in Progress

Vanderbilt University

Prepared For

The Wallace Foundation

Existing evidence suggests the assistant principal role is becoming an increasingly prevalent one that has the potential to become a more powerful force in advancing equity, school improvement, and principal effectiveness. 

Over the past 25 years, the number of assistant principals has been steadily increasing, as has the number of principals with prior experience as an assistant principal. However, the knowledge base on assistant principals has not grown in parallel with their increased presence in schools. To help policymakers, practitioners, and researchers better understand the assistant principal role and leverage it to promote equity and school effectiveness, The Wallace Foundation commissioned a synthesis of research on assistant principals.

The evidence and insights from this project includes publications from the research synthesis and publications that discuss:

  • How the assistant principal role can promote equity and diversity in the pathway to the principalship
  • How the assistant principal role can contribute to equitable experiences and outcomes for students, teachers, and staff
  • Recommended research and policy actions that would benefit the education field and advance more equitable outcomes for students and education leaders

The Role of Assistant Principals: Evidence and Insights for Advancing School Leadership

Assistant principals play an important role in advancing equity, student outcomes, and principal effectiveness, according to the study report. In this webinar, the authors of the report explain these key findings and a panel of education experts share their reactions.

Related Staff

Mariesa Herrmann

Mariesa Herrmann

Principal Researcher

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