Principals might require letters of recommendation when transitioning to a different job or applying for a grant. Individuals might also write letters of recommendation for a principal to nominate her for a school administration leadership award or other recognition. The challenge in writing letters of recommendation for principals lies in summarizing accomplishments that might be quite lengthy. You’ll also want to humanize the letter so it doesn’t read as a resume-like list of achievements.
Establishing Professional Context
At the beginning of the letter, establish your relationship with the candidate and neatly encapsulate your understanding of her responsibilities. For example, you might state that you serve on an inter-district committee along with three other principals charged with improving outcomes on state-mandated testing. The letter might state, “Over the past three years, I have observed Julie Cantor work with her school site, Tall Pine Middle School, to improve overall test scores by 18 percent.” Providing professional context establishes you as a credible reference, giving subsequent statements more value.
Describing Administrative Competence
Principals are expected to coordinate complex responsibilities associated with a school’s finances, legal obligations, relations with the school board, staffing needs and other administrative tasks, according to North Carolina Public Schools. Before addressing a principal's more nuanced abilities and characteristics, describe her level of administrative competence. When possible, use specific examples from the principal’s professional experience. For example, you might state, “Dr. Cantor supervises a staff of over 75 teachers, leading weekly school-wide staff meetings to prioritize, address and resolve emerging challenges related to last year’s state-mandated budget cuts. Last year, the school partnered with area businesses to fund a new computer lab.”
Affirming Passion for Students
Some principals have reputations for holing up in their offices, detached from their student populations. Your letter of recommendation can describe the candidate’s enthusiasm for surmounting challenges associated with students, building student community and addressing individual student needs. A letter of recommendation might state, “Mrs. Cantor walks the campus daily at lunch, talking with students and asking for feedback about how to make the school a better place. She cares passionately about reducing student gang involvement, and often spends additional time developing a rapport with her at-risk students.”
Building a Positive Community
Principals are expected to create safe, effective and empowered communities inside and outside the school. Effective recommendation letters will discuss the candidate’s ability to communicate with parents and families, motivating them to become more invested in their students’ academic success. You can discuss the principal’s positive relationship with school board members, the local media, area education non-profits and local government leaders. For example, your letter might state, “Mrs. Cantor established the school’s beginning-of-the-year home visit program, where each home room teacher makes a commitment to meet his student’s families in their homes. This creates a positive relationship with families and teachers, facilitating more effective communication regarding student progress.”