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Report Urges States to Take a New Look at Principal Training

States and districts should not be bound to traditional principal preparation programs when developing school leaders, according to a report from the progressive Center for American Progress, based in Washington.

The CAP is the latest entity to take on the issue of effective principals by focusing on one particular element, principal preparation. (Several groups are examining other issues, like principal evaluation, which I explored in this article from August.)

The report released Monday looks at eight states that the center believes are leading the country in terms of expanding the school leader pool and developing innovative ways to improve principal training. Those states are: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

The center also looked at eight states that it says are "lagging" when it comes to this issue, by having a misalignment between state policies and what research has shown are best practices for principal effectiveness. Those states are: Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.

In Delaware, one of the "leading" states, the report pointed to the newly created Delaware Leadership Project, a 14-month intensive preparation program intended to prepare aspiring principals for the state's highest-need schools. The program will feature a "problem-based curriculum, and yearlong school-based residency under the mentorship of an experienced principal."

In Kansas, identified as a "lagging" state, principals earn certification by getting a master's degree in educational administration, having at least three years of teaching experience, and passing an exam. "The trouble with these criteria is that they are simply inputs and do not require candidates to demonstrate their ability to do the job well," the report says. "Nor is there evidence that these requirements have any kind of correlation with principal effectiveness."

One common element among the groups pushing for school leadership reform is a disdain of the traditional path of earning a master's degree in administration as as stepping stone to the principalship. However, those more-traditional programs produce thousands of principal candidates year after year. I'm interested to know how graduates of these programs feel about their course work: Did they adequately prepare you for the principalship?

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