The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver has been selected to participate in The Wallace Foundation’s $47-million initiative to develop models over the next four years for improving university principal preparation programs and to examine state policy to see if it could be strengthened to encourage higher-quality training statewide.
The University Principal Preparation Initiative builds on 15 years of Wallace-supported research and experience about what makes for effective principals and their “pre-service” training at universities. The initiative seeks to explore how university programs can improve their training so it reflects the evidence on how best to prepare effective principals, and then to share these insights to benefit the broader field.
After a selection process that included site visits and assistance from experts in state policy and education, the foundation selected seven universities to redesign their principal preparation programs: Albany State University (Georgia), Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, the University of Connecticut, Virginia State University and Western Kentucky University. In addition to working with local schools districts and their states, each university selected a partner program that was known for high-quality training to serve as mentor and support the redesign process.
Florida Atlantic University and North Carolina State University selected the University of Denver’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department in the Morgridge College of Education to serve as their exemplary program partner.
The Wallace Foundation hopes the initiative can contribute over the long term to the development of a new national approach to preparing effective principals, one focusing on evidence-based policies and practices in three areas:
- Developing and implementing high-quality courses of study with practical, on-the-job experiences.
- Putting in place strong university-district partnerships.
- Developing state policies about program accreditation, principal licensure or certification, and other matters (funded internships, for example) to promote more effective training statewide.
“We know from research that school principals require excellent training with high-quality, practical experiences to become effective leaders—but most are simply not getting this,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “Because many school districts don’t have the capacity to train as many principals as they need or to train future principals at all, the best way to reach more aspiring school leaders is through the university programs that typically provide needed certification. We are confident that the selected universities want to raise the bar for their programs, work in partnership with their local school districts and serve as models for other universities.”
The seven states in which the universities are located will receive funding to review their policies pertaining to university-based principal training and determine if changes—such as program accreditation and principal licensure or certification requirements—would encourage the development of more effective preparation programs statewide.
“The more we talk with education leaders no matter at what level of the education system, from state to university to district, the more we hear it is the right time to conduct a university-focused initiative like this,” said Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at Wallace. “We are seeking to learn how these seven universities accomplish their program redesign as an important first step in improving how principals are prepared for the demanding job of leading school improvement across the country.”
RAND Corporation will conduct an independent evaluation of the initiative over four years, with a final report in year five. The study will assess how the participating universities go about trying to implement high-quality courses of study and to form strong partnerships with local, high-needs school districts. A series of public reports will share lessons and insights and describe whatever credible models emerge so that other universities, districts and states can adopt or adapt the initiative work.
The Wallace Foundation seeks to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children and foster the vitality of arts for everyone. The foundation has an unusual approach: funding efforts to test innovative ideas for solving important public problems, conducting research to find out what works and what doesn’t and to fill key knowledge gaps – and then communicating the results to help others. Wallace, which works nationally, has five major initiatives under way:
- School leadership: Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
- Afterschool: Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.
- Building audiences for the arts: Enabling arts organizations to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.
- Arts education: Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
- Summer and expanded learning: Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children, and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students.
Find out more at www.wallacefoundation.org.