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Principal selection criteria and processes employed by school districts in Rhode Island

Bernard DiLullo, Johnson & Wales University


There has been increasing awareness of the importance of the role of the principal as a key figure in reforming and sustaining effective schools (Bjork & Ginsberg, 1995; Cotton, 2003; Harpin, 2003; Heck, Larson & Marcolides, 1990; Jackson, 2000; Leithwood & Montgomery, 1986; Tirozzi & Ferrandino, 2000). Principals are being held accountable for the success or failure of their schools and expected to create a dynamic learning environment that fosters the improvement of student achievement (Brown & Irby, 1998). Based on the recent annual achievement testing in Rhode Island, many schools are in need of reviewing and evaluating learning opportunities. Results from these tests have indicated that students are performing below proficiency level in math and language arts (Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2003). Selecting principals to meet this challenge is paramount when embarking on school reform. This is particularly so in light of the increasing number of principals leaving the position and the declining number of qualified applicants to fill those vacancies (Baker, 1997). Although the importance of the principal's leadership skills in transforming schools has been well documented, selection processes do not typically include criteria for consistent assessment of these skills (Shipman, Tops & Murphy, 1998). Most school districts treat principals like interchangeable commodities; a one size fits all approach (Portin, Schneider, DeArmond and Gundlach, 2003). This research examined the selection criteria and processes in one Northeastern state. The research design employed a mailed survey to all school superintendents (N = 33) in the state. Following an analysis of the survey responses, interviews were conducted with selected survey respondents to obtain in-depth information on variables of interest. A descriptive profile of prevailing criteria and processes was used to identify patterns and make recommendations for policy and practice. The research findings indicated that Rhode Island Districts continue to use traditional and inadequate selection methods that are not adequate for evaluating the qualities necessary to be an effective principal in the 21st century. Specific recommendations regarding selection criteria and processes are offered.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

DiLullo, Bernard, "Principal selection criteria and processes employed by school districts in Rhode Island" (2004). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3124556.