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.
Policymakers, practitioners, and researchers have not reached consensus on what the assistant principal role should entail, how to best prepare and support assistant principals, and how to effectively prepare them for success as principals. There is also little discussion about how the assistant principal role can promote equity and diversity in the pathway to the principalship as well as contribute to equitable experiences and outcomes for students, teachers, and staff.
In this report, we present the results of a systematic synthesis of 79 empirical research studies on assistant principals published since 2000, including both quantitative and qualitative studies. To address gaps in this research base, we supplement the synthesis with new analyses of national data and data from two states, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. This report provides a descriptive portrait of the assistant principal role. It then addresses two important issues: diversity and equity among assistant principals and assistant principals' influence on student and school outcomes.