Day 18: Reform Laborious Path for School Principals

Like the “Three-Tiered Licensure” system now in place for teachers, New Mexico mostly measures inputs as opposed to outputs when it comes to licensing principals. For example, New Mexico requires a master’s degree and at least six years of teaching experience before it is possible to become a principal.

Of course, being a teacher and being a principal are two completely different jobs requiring vastly different skill sets. Also, limiting the pool of potential principals reduces significantly the talent available, removes potentially excellent teachers from the classroom, and results in a distinct lack of innovative ideas and promotes a relatively homogeneous mindset.

After all, teachers have all been through schools of education, the same certification programs, and grown acclimated to teaching in today’s classrooms. The ability for innovative and visionary outsiders to bring new ideas to the schools as administrators is quite limited.

Additionally, principal pay (like that of teachers) is highly inflexible and determined by various statewide formulae based on inputs rather than outputs like student achievement. These rigid formulas and the lengthy service requirements only serve to make finding good school principals more difficult given the widely-reported, ongoing principal shortage.1

The final problem with principal licensing in New Mexico is the same overriding problem we have with the state’s teacher licensing system, which is an emphasis on inputs in the form of credentials rather than outputs in the form of more educated students.

1Jimmy Guterman, “Where have all the principals gone?: the acute school-leader shortage,” Edutopia,

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2 Replies to “Day 18: Reform Laborious Path for School Principals”

  1. Paul:

    This is an enormously helpful point of view, but I have a couple of questions:

    First, granted that existing licensure requirements for all school administrators are based on inputs, how would you see licensure being restructured on outcomes?

    Second, I can easily see outcomes or outputs being used for continuing licensure, but it may considerably more difficult for initial licensure. How would candidates for initial licensure demonstrate outcomes that are pertinent to the job? We would have to allow for the difference between initial and continuing licensure/certification.

    Perhaps a discussion of forms or measures of alternative certification for school administrators could provide some guidance. As it is, it is hard to see how those who have been educated and employed in an input-based system could demonstrate qualifications based on outcomes.

  2. I have always wondered why you need a MA in Education and X years of teaching to be a principal. Seems like if your only exposure is to the educational system and it is failing, then all you get is more of the same.

    In the Santa Fe School District we have a problem where the biggest and poorest performing schools offer the biggest Principal salaries, so if you are about to retire and want to boost your retirement you switch to those schools. So my local elementary had 5 principals in 6 years….which did nothing for the school no matter how good any of those 5 were. Usually, a guy ready to retire is more about kicking back or preparing for going out the door rather than making lasting change.

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