This paper uses data from New York City to estimate how the characteristics of school principals relate to school performance, as measured by students' standardized exam scores and other outcomes. There is little evidence of any relationship between school performance and principal education and pre-principal work experience, but some evidence that experience as an assistant principal at the principal's current school is associated with higher performance among inexperienced principals. There is mixed evidence on the relationship between formal principal training and professional development programs and school performance, with the caveat that the selection and assignment of New York City principals participating in these programs make it hard to isolate their effects. The positive returns to principal experience suggest that policies which cause principals to leave their posts early (e.g., via early retirement or a move into district administration) will be costly, and the tendency for less-advantaged schools to be run by less experienced principals could exacerbate educational inequality.
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