Many states require prospective principals to pass a licensure exam as a condition of obtaining an administrative license. Little is known, however, about the potential effects of principal licensure exams on the pool of available principals or whether exams are predictive of later job performance.
This study investigates the most commonly used exam, the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA), using ten years of data on test-takers in Tennessee.
The analysis uncovers two main results. First, there are substantial differences in passage rates by test-taker race and gender. In particular, nonwhites with otherwise similar characteristics are 17-18% less likely than whites to obtain the required cut score. Second, although applicants with higher scores are more likely to be hired as principals, we find no evidence that SLLA score predicts potential measures of principal job performance, including supervisor ratings from the statewide evaluation system or leadership ratings from a statewide teacher survey.
The results raise questions about whether conditioning administrative licensure on SLLA passage is consistent with the goal of a diverse principal workforce.