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The Bridge Project: Accelerating Educational Leaders’ Careers and Advancing Equity in the Principal Pathway

An effective, diverse principal workforce is essential to retaining high-quality teachers, supporting student learning, and advancing equity. Nationally, superintendents report that staffing principalships is difficult, yet certified educators are often available who could fulfill these roles and make an impact for the communities they serve. Illinois, for example, has four certified educators for each open principal position, but many talented educators of color and women remain in their existing jobs as assistant principals or teacher leaders.

WestEd, in partnership with Illinois Regional Office of Education (ROE) Lead Hubs, operates the Bridge Project, a critical Illinois investment in the state’s education leadership workforce–whether in urban, rural, or suburban settings. The Bridge Project provides a replicable model for accelerating advancement for diverse educators to principalship by supporting post-certification professional networks and addressing systemic barriers to advancement.

In Illinois, principals of color comprise less than 23 percent of the principal population, while students of color comprise more than 53 percent of the student population. Research has shown that principals of color contribute to a more diverse teacher workforce, which in turn has been shown to benefit not just students of color, but students of all races.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the federal Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, Bridge Project participants will receive professional development, executive coaching, a post-certification residency in organizational leadership and specialized credentials. The American Institutes for Research (AIR) will evaluate the study to determine its efficacy and how it can be replicated to diversify the principal workforce more broadly.

The principal investigators for this project include Matthew Clifford, Research and Technical Assistance Director, Education Leadership at WestEd, Ayele Dodoo, Director, Educational Leadership and System Design at WestEd, and Erika Hunt, Project Director of the Lead Hub at Regional Office Education #17.