4 High-Impact Tools for School Leaders

tools for school leaders
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Without a doubt, the principal has always claimed a unique role in a school. 


  1. there is only one school principal 
  2. the school principal is responsible for every aspect of the school 
  3. at the end of the day (COVID or no COVID), the principal owns the final word on everything 

This can be a stressful role for many individuals entering the profession. In fact, it should come as no surprise that the pandemic has created additional stress on the school principal, prompting many principals to consider quitting the profession.  

As a former school leader, I constantly worked to improve my efficiency and efficacy. As I grew in confidence and competence, I collected a few great resources that I incorporated into my toolkit. Now serving as a district executive, I still use these tools, which are critical in increasing the productivity of myself and my team.  

Below you will find my favorites. I also included how the tool aligns to the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders from the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. The purpose is simple: when school leaders reflect on their practice, they can align their strengths and growth areas to the tools found in this list.  

I hope you find these resources both informative and actionable as you work diligently to support the success of your entire school community, COVID or no COVID!

1. Instructional Tools Toolkit (Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment) 

This free tool is my top pick! If you have ever wondered if a particular instructional program would generate a net return on your investment (i.e. student achievement), this tool is for you.  It is an accessible summary of the peer-reviewed international research on all instructional tools and practices supporting the teaching of 5-16 year olds. It organizes the research data by program, cost, evidence strength, and impact (in months), and has everything from block scheduling and homework to one-on-one tutoring and uniforms. It is a game changer and can shift the way you make decisions about how to spend your resources. Oh, and did I mention you can sort it? 

2. Disrupting Inequity: Having Brave Conversations About Bias (Equity and Cultural Responsiveness) 

If you are interested in creating opportunities for courageous conversations within your school community, this free toolkit is for you. It contains slide decks with notes, handouts, professional readings, and more to support facilitated conversations about race, bias, and prejudice. Topics include Introducing Bias, Historical Perspective about Race in America, and How Does Bias Manifest in Our School. A facilitator overview also lays out the arc of the learning and provides additional context. This resource changes mindsets! 

3. Transformational Leadership Framework: Personal Leadership (Ethics and Professional Norms) 

New Leaders has learned from hundreds of high-performing principals about the actions they take to transform schools. This information is synthesized in the free tool, the Transformational Leadership Framework (TLF). One critical component of the TLF is Personal Leadership, which forces principals to interrogate their actions around five levers: belief-based and goal-driven leadership; equity-focused leadership; interpersonal leadership; adaptive leadership; and resilient leadership. I have consistently used this tool to examine my actions as a leader and define success moving forward. It accelerates your reflective practices! 

4. The Management Center (Operations and Management) 

For me, preparing for the school leader role did not include learning how to manage the day-to-day tasks, people, priorities, and processes. The Management Center provided this training through its “Management Crash Course.” The program is designed to teach you effective management strategies such as learning how to delegate, using goals to drive improvement, hiring well, and managing your time. The cost is on a sliding scale depending on your organization, ranging from $650 to $395 per attendee. The skills and competencies gained through the training are worth every penny! 

School leaders ensure our school communities are strong, vibrant, and loving spaces for learning and growth. These tools are designed to pour into our school leaders, reducing their stress levels and increasing their effectiveness, but any educational leader can use these resources. They are excellent!

Dr. Brandy Nelson is Executive Director, Learning and Teaching, Secondary, for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, and the founder/CEO of Nelson Roots.

Dr. Brandy Nelson is Executive Director, Learning and Teaching, Secondary, for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, and the founder/CEO of Nelson Roots.