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New Principal Training Program in Ohio Will Put Leaders in High-Poverty Schools

A new Ohio program is seeking to train leaders, including those without a background in education, to take on the role of principals in schools in high-poverty environments, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Bright New Leaders for Ohio Schools, a collaboration among the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and the Ohio Business Roundtable, seeks to recruit and train principals through what they describe as a unique fellowship that combines real-world working experience with courses at the business school, according to the paper. 

Successful applicants will be awarded a one-year fellowship, which starts this summer, and receive a monthly stipend. They will work with a highly-successful mentor principal for 12 months, attend on-campus sessions three days a month at the Fisher College of Business and tour other high-performing schools. Courses at the business school include a mix of business and education offerings: organizational behavior, curriculum and instruction, finance, leadership and education law, and equity, according to the program's website. 

Fellows will graduate with a master's degree in business administration, and will be licensed to work as principals in Ohio. They also must commit to working in the school for three years after graduation.

The program is hoping to train 35 to 40 principals, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Those associated with the program told the paper that Bright New Leaders holds "tremendous promise" to change the outcomes for students in high-poverty schools, where the program's graduates will be placed.  Karen McClellan, the program's coordinator for Columbus City Schools, told the paper that the program could strengthen the district's leadership pipeline.

The program, funded with $3.5 million from the state, is based on the idea that leadership skills are not "situation-specific" and that those skills can lead to positive results in different environments. 

"Good leaders, really effective leaders, are not situation-specific," Tony Rucci, a professor at the Fisher College and academic co-director of the Bright program, told the paper. "They create a vision, they inspire people, they gain respect, they treat people with dignity."

The program grew out of a 2012 study—"Failure Is Not an Option"—that looked at nine high-performing public schools in Ohio that had poverty rates of more than 50 percent, the paper said. The report found, despite the high rates of poverty, the schools were successful because they were helmed by strong leaders.

So far, the program has attracted applicants from the business world, the military, non-profits and the teaching corps, the paper reports.  

The Ohio program is not the first to ground principal training in business practices and run those programs at a business school. Rice University's Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, which trains principals to be "CEOs" of their schools, is based at its business school, the Jones Graduate School of Business.

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