In this file photo from 2014, Christopher Phillips, principal at Jefferson-Houston School in Alexandria, Va., visits a second grade class. The Wallace Foundation is spending millions of dollars to study and improve principal preparation. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Strong principals are critical components of successful schools, and yet school leaders usually receive far less attention than teachers in the national conversation about education. The Wallace Foundation has been seeking to change that for years, investing millions of dollars in research into what makes a principal effective.

Now the foundation is announcing that it will spend another $47 million during the next five years on an effort to improve principal preparation. The money will pay to redesign as many as six university training programs, each of which will be expected to partner with several school districts so that practicing superintendents and administrators have input into what aspiring principals need to learn in order to be well-prepared.

The foundation plans to select the universities by fall 2016.

The initiative comes on the heels of research commissioned by the foundation showing that most superintendents are not satisfied with the quality of principal preparation programs. And in many cases, university programs agree that their graduates are not well-prepared, according to the research.

“Many university programs are looking for ways to raise the bar, and the time is ripe for states to consider broad reform of these programs,” said Will Miller, president of the Wallace Foundation. “We hope this initiative will provide evidence about how to strengthen these programs, as a first step toward eventually creating a new, national evidence-based norm for how principals are prepared.”