No one can deny the pandemic’s devastating impact on America’s public schools. Since March 2020, districts across the country have experienced alarming declines in student achievement in math and reading, a mental health crisis among students and widespread job dissatisfaction among educators.

The pandemic also made it impossible to ignore the inequities faced by Black and Latino students — such as limited access to digital resources, rigorous coursework and skilled educators.

And while it’s tempting to blame the pandemic for creating these challenges, the truth is that they existed long before schools transitioned to remote learning three years ago.

Federal and state policymakers have since suggested various solutions — from increasing access to tutoring to boosting teacher pay. However, one of our greatest potential solutions is often missed in the national conversation: providing professional development for principals.

The public appreciates and understands the important role that CEOs, college presidents and other leaders play in the success of their organizations. Yet, the significance of the key leadership position in our schools is largely overlooked and under-supported.

Principals often lack access to professional development opportunities. Research suggests that this is one of the top reasons why so many principals are exiting their jobs.

Consider what principals take on when they agree to lead a school. They recruit and develop teachers who are in front of our kids each day. They meet with families to discuss their children’s academic performance and social-emotional progress. They advocate for the needs of students in front of district leaders and school board members. Most of all, they set a school’s vision and culture.

Research shows that effective principals can have a dramatic impact on absenteeism, teacher satisfaction and, importantly, student achievement.

One study found that replacing a below-average principal with an above-average principal results in gains of an additional three months of learning in math and reading for the average student.

So how can K-12 districts capitalize on this outsized potential role that principals can play in creating an atmosphere of excellence?

The answer lies in giving them authority to lead — especially those who serve in the most disadvantaged schools. It also lies in providing principals with the proper financial support and resources to develop great teachers, improve student outcomes and create learning environments that foster success.

Read the full article about principal pipelines by Jean S. Desravines at The Hechinger Report.