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New Report Outlines Innovative Steps for Creating Transformational Leadership Pipelines in Tennessee


Tennessee Department of EducationNashville, TN – The Tennessee Department of Education is releasing a new report from the state’s Transformational Leadership Advisory Council, which recognized the importance of developing school leaders as a critical lever for supporting student achievement.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen convened the advisory council in October 2015, and it included representatives from the state, advocacy organizations, national stakeholders, higher education, and school districts.

Support the development, expansion, and evaluation of regional providers that focus on innovative leader development models in Tennessee

Support the development, expansion, and evaluation of regional providers that focus on innovative leader development models in Tennessee

Tennessee is the first state in the country to lead a comprehensive approach to developing transformational school leaders, with multiple programs aligning to the promising practices identified by the advisory council and a unique statewide focus on strengthening the leadership pipeline.

The advisory council, chaired by Assistant Commissioner Paul Fleming, sought stakeholder collaboration and feedback around three areas of focus:

  • Identify the common, foundational components of transformational leader programs to inform policy changes and develop a set of recommendations for use by leadership stakeholders in Tennessee
  • Support the development, expansion, and evaluation of regional providers that focus on innovative leader development models in Tennessee
  • Support the design, implementation, and evaluation of new pipeline programs that incorporate the common components of transformational leadership pipeline programs and recommendations identified by the council

Among the outcomes of the advisory council, the group created a definition of transformational leadership, identified eight common components of transformational leadership pipeline programs, and issued a set of recommendations for each of those eight areas.

Specific actions that serve as next steps include the development of a statewide toolkit to help schools districts identify teachers who may be high-potential leadership candidates, establishing selection criteria and training for coaches and mentors, developing a structured and comprehensive partnership agreement template for districts to use with partners, and creating the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance (TTLA). The TTLA will serve as a leader pipeline incubator to help districts develop a deeper pool of high-quality leaders.

“We know leadership matters, and that is why it has been important for us to determine how to create more opportunities to identify and develop leaders within districts and schools across the state, especially in our rural areas, so our students can continue to grow,” McQueen said. “The advisory council has identified what is working in Tennessee, and now we need to act on that knowledge to scale up and strengthen pipelines to transformational leadership.”

Research has shown that leadership is second only to teacher quality as the largest in-school factor impacting student achievement. Data also show that as of 2013, more than half of Tennessee’s principals had three or fewer years of experience as a leader.

Both of these facts helped to catalyze the need for action in this area, and over the last few years, more programs have launched in Tennessee to create and support great leaders in our schools, including the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership.

Building off those programs, the advisory council identified eight common components of impactful principal pipeline programs.

The components include:

  • Model programs are aligned to clear and consistent leadership standards and/or competency frameworks that set a vision and focus on the key instructional leadership competencies that improve educator effectiveness and student outcomes.
  • Strategies and tools are used for the early detection of high-potential leadership candidates at the school level before the formal selection process into a pipeline program to help recruit a strong candidate pool and bench within a district and/or region.
  • Authentic assessments are used for the rigorous selection of identified high-potential leadership candidates into pipeline programs and placement into school-level leadership positions.
  • Leaders are coached and mentored in their first three years on the job based on evidence-based needs.

More information about the work of the advisory council and additional findings are in the council’s report, which is available on the department’s website. For more information about the Transformational Leadership Advisory Council, please contact assistant commissioner Paul Fleming at




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