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Panel Urges 300 Programs for Administrators Should Be Closed

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The first national commission to focus specifically on improving school administration has urged that 300 of the more than 500 colleges and universities that prepare administrators cease to do so.

It has also called for the creation of a national "academy'' that would certify outstanding school administrators.

In its final report, to be released this week, the National Commission on Excellence in Educational Administration recommends changes that would remodel the way administrators are trained and "substantially'' reform the systems that license them.

The 55-page report, "Leaders for America's Schools,'' augments recent recommendations for improving the schools, by placing under critical scrutiny the principals and superintendents who lead them.

It calls for major changes in the way such people are educated, regulated, evaluated, and supervised.

The commission's 30-plus recommendations aspire, the report says, "to nothing less than the restructuring of a national understanding of requirements for educational leadership of the future.'' They are intended, it adds, "as calls to action.''

The 27-member commission was established by the University Council for Educational Administration, a consortium of 50 leading research universities offering doctoral programs in school leadership. Daniel E. Griffiths, former dean of New York University's school of education, chaired the panel.

Its members included government representatives and policymakers, higher-education officials and faculty members, leaders of professional associations and unions, and businessmen. (See related story on page 16).

Two commissioners--Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Judith E. Lanier, dean of the college of education at Michigan State University--declined to endorse the report. Both Mr. Shanker and Ms. Lanier were members of the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, and both serve on the planning group charged with establishing a national certification board for teachers.

"We have really been thinking seriously about the need to reform teaching and teacher education, and we need similar kinds of in-depth analyses about the changes that need to occur in educational administration,'' said Ms. Lanier, who is also chairman of the Holmes Group, a consortium of research universities working to reform teacher education.

"I just don't think the commission went far enough,'' she said.

According to Ms. Lanier, the commission lacked the time and resources to do the "analysis that was called for.''

Mr. Shanker noted that the report includes a number of "gutsy statements.''

"But as a teacher-union leader preaching the restructuring of labor-management roles and the restructuring of schools, I couldn't sign off on something that asks less of administrators than I am asking of teachers.''

The commission spent a year examining research, holding hearings, and working on the report.

Said Mr. Griffiths, "This commission was asked to examine the quality of educational leadership in this country, and I must say that our research reveals troubling aspects throughout the field.''

The findings reveal, he said, that the field lacks a clear definition of good educational leadership; preparation programs relevant to the demands on administrators; high-quality candidates for those programs; licensure systems that promote excellence; and adequate collaboration between schools and universities.

In addition, he said, not enough attention has been given to bringing sufficient numbers of women and minorities into school administration.

Untapped Potential

Principals and superintendents, the report states, "represent the best constituency'' for identifying and bringing about the changes needed in the preparation of administrators.

The report notes, however, that the professional organizations for school administrators "have barely begun to tap their potential'' for improving the profession.

It urges the organizations to construct a "national policy board on educational administration.''

Such a board, the report states, would include representatives from national organizations with interests in educational administration.

As envisioned by the commissioners, it would monitor the implementation of their recommendations, encourage the development of high-quality preparation programs, conduct periodic reviews of those programs, and produce "white papers'' on critical policy issues.

The first task of such a board, the panel stated, should be the establishment of a "national academy of professional school administration,'' similar in purpose to the national board for teachers proposed last May by the Carnegie task force.

The academy would certify administrators who have shown sustained exemplary performance, shared their ideas through publication, and passed a rigorous examination. Such certification, the report notes, would be voluntary.

The report also urges each state to create its own board for licensing administrators, which would have the power to issue and revoke licenses.

The report urges institutions that currently prepare school administrators, but are unwilling to adequately support such efforts, to terminate their programs.

Of the 505 colleges and universities offering courses in school administration, fewer than 200 have the resources and commitment to provide an "excellent'' program, the report contends.

"At least 300 universities and colleges should cease preparing educational administrators,'' it argues. And those that choose to continue doing so, it adds, should "prepare fewer--better.''

The versatile school leaders needed in the future, says the report, "cannot be prepared by mediocre programs in academically weak institutions.''

A strong program requires at least five full-time faculty members in educational administration, according to the commission. The median number of faculty members in all of the programs that now prepare administrators is 3.9.

The commissioners also called for sharp changes in the focus of such programs that would make them more like those in other professions.

Programs for administrators, the commissioners asserted, "must emphasize the application of knowledge and skills in clinical, rather than academic, situations.''

They should include the study of management and education administration, the application of research findings, supervised practice, and demonstrations of competence, the panelists said.

It also urges practicing principals and superintendents to work with professors to reform the curriculum for preparation programs.

School districts should also provide faculty for university classrooms, the report suggests, and should help supervise clinical experiences.

In addition, the report urges districts to establish centers that would identify and improve the skills of potential school principals and practicing administrators.

"As the teaching force declines in number as well as quality, and more highly motivated teachers opt for career-ladder advancement rather than administrative posts, school districts will need to make vigorous efforts to recruit qualified candidates for administration,'' the report states.

State licensure standards for administrators also need to be toughened, according to the report.

"Current licensure procedures do a great disservice, because they appear to designate individuals particularly suited by character, intelligence, and skill to administer schools,'' it contends.

"That claim,'' it says, "is indefensible.''

The commission recommended that states consider licensing only those who have completed a state-approved program, passed rigorous written and oral examinations, and demonstrated competence in simulated or actual work settings.

The practice in most states of granting certification on the basis of accumulated course credits should end, the report argues.

In line with the recommendations of a number of other national groups, the commissioners called for greater involvement by teachers in school-based decisionmaking, and more autonomy for local schools.

According to the report's vision, "teachers will play significant roles in helping to formulate and implement educational policies affecting the instructional program, teachers will have more discretion over classroom decisions, and individual schools will have more control over curricular, personnel, and budget matters within districtwide policy.''

But such reforms, the report adds, "cannot be successful without strong, well-reasoned leadership from principals and superintendents.''

Copies of the report are available for $8 each from the University Council for Educational Administration, 116 Farmer Building, Tempe, Ariz. 85287.

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