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New Initiative to Redesign Principal Preparation Programs

Frederick Brown image
Frederick Brown

These last few years have been extremely powerful for education leadership. We've witnessed the unveiling of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, formally the ISLLC Standards. The field also has its first-ever Model Principal Supervisor Professional Standards.

Both of these significant contributions to the field come to us thanks in part to the support of The Wallace Foundation. Wallace has been engaged for almost two decades in national efforts to strengthen leadership at the school and system levels. At a recent Wallace convening in New York earlier this week, foundation president Will Miller made yet another compelling argument for the focus on leadership. "We now know that leadership is second only to teaching among school-related factors linked to student achievement, explaining about a quarter of the variation compared to the more than one-third attributable to teaching," Miller said.

In its most recent work, Wallace has been engaged in two initiatives to strengthen leaders. Its Principal Pipeline Initiative is helping districts get clear about the job leaders are expected to do, the training they need to perform their work, the kind of hiring practices that will get the right person in the appropriate position, and the kind of induction and ongoing support that will help them be effective. A second Wallace initiative seeks to strengthen the practices of district principal supervisors—those key individuals who support building principals in their work. In both of these initiatives, the goal is to link the practice of system and building leaders to improvements in teaching and learning in schools across the district.

As both of these initiatives continue, Wallace recently announced a five-year, $47 million initiative to help universities improve how they prepare future principals, especially for the nation's highest-need schools. The new University Preparation Program Initiative will fund the redesign of up to six university programs. These universities will be asked to carry out their efforts in partnership with school districts. The goal is to learn lessons about curricular and other improvements that can be used or adapted across the country by university-based principal preparation programs, the main training ground for school leaders in the United States.

Accordingly, the initiative includes research to find out more about topics including:

  • How universities can develop and run high-quality courses of study, ones that provide such recommended features as strong internships for program enrollees; and
  • How universities can form effective partnerships with the school districts their graduates feed into.

Because states have a role in university preparation, the initiative will also provide funding for the states in which the universities are located to review their principal preparation program policies and see if changes could encourage the development of effective programming statewide.

The university initiative comes as a new Wallace-commissioned report suggests that school district leaders are largely dissatisfied with the quality of principal preparation programs and many universities believe that their programs have room for improvement.

At Learning Forward, we know that the best way to improve the learning experiences of all children, particularly those in the highest-need settings, is to strengthen teaching and learning at all levels.

Because the work of The Wallace Foundation aligns with Learning Forward's vision of excellent teaching and learning every day as well as the Leadership standard, Learning Forward is proud to support this initiative. 

We encourage those of you who work in leadership development to review the Leadership standard of Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning and consider how your leadership development program might be structured to produces leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below or using the #principalprep hashtag. Let's start talking about how we can spread this work so that it positively impacts all students.

Frederick Brown
Deputy Executive Director, Learning Forward

The Leadership standard: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires skillful leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning. 

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