Wallace Foundation Announces Principal Improvement Program

(Photo: dcJohn, Creative Commons)

(Photo: dcJohn, Creative Commons)

The Wallace Foundation has announced plans to put $47 million toward helping certain universities redesign their academic programs in order to focus on helping improve the education of aspiring principals.

The foundation has been looking to change the amount of attention given to school leaders for years, putting millions of dollars into researching what it is that makes principals effective. Now, it plans on putting $47 million over the next five years into improving principal preparation, especially in the highest-needs schools across the country. Through the University Preparation Program Initiative, the money will go toward redesigning the training programs at six universities. Each institution will be required to partner with at least one school district so that students can see what they need to learn in order to be well-prepared for the job ahead.

Independent research will also be completed to look at how universities can create and implement high-quality programs and other supports needed for training to be successful. The research will also focus on how universities and high-needs school districts can form partnerships to help make this happen.

Universities will be selected by the foundation in the fall of 2016. All schools will be located in states that have policies that support high-quality principal training.

Catherine Morris for Diverse Education writes how the job of a principal involves multiple roles, including increasing morale, ensuring their students are academically and personally successful, and helping failing schools turn things around. Experts believe that because principals play such a critical role in the K-12 system, their training is incredibly important.

The initiative comes after the release of research performed by the foundation and titled "Improving University Principal Preparation Programs: Five Themes From the Field,"showing a high number of superintendents, 80%, believe principal preparation programs are not of a high enough quality, saying many are falling short of the needs and expectations of school districts throughout the country. In a separate survey, many universities agreed that their graduates were unprepared, adding that program improvements were needed in the area of partnering with districts to offer high-quality practicum experiences to students, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.

"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."

The program will ask each university to partner with as many as three school districts in order to work together to identify and develop what research shows to be effective training methods, such as high-quality internships and other school-based experiences. In addition, each university will be connected to a leading principal preparation program that will help to recreate the curriculum for their preparation program. Funding will also be provided for the states that house the universities in order to offer the opportunity to review the principal preparation program policies and determine if changes would benefit programs across the state.

Based in New York City, the Wallace Foundation is a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving opportunities for the disadvantaged and offering help with arts education.

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