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Board Reaffirms Plans To Reform Administration

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Washington--While acknowledging that some of its more controversial proposals may be modified, the National Policy Board for Educational Administration formally recommitted itself last week to the task of improving the preparation of school administrators.

The policy board encountered sharp criticism last spring when it released a report calling for an overhaul of how school administrators are recruited, trained, and certified.

At a meeting here last week, the policy board decided to incorporate as an independent organization under the leadership of Scott D. Thomson, the outgoing executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mr. Thomson will assume his new duties March 1.

He replaces David L. Clark, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, who resigned last week as the board's executive secretary, effective Dec. 31.

"I am optimistic that we're on track and we will be a major player in the field of school administration and school leadership," Mr. Thomson said.

The policy board, which was formed in January 1988, is made up of representatives of 10 major national education associations. Its initial report, "Improving the Preparation of School Administrators: An Agenda for Reform," marked the first time that the major players in educational administration had spoken out with one voice on the deficiencies in their field.

David G. Imig, chairman of the policy board and executive director of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said each organization will review the comments made about the board's report.

Revisions Expected

The report recommended that preservice programs be strengthened and that a national professional-standards board be established to certify school administrators. (See Education Week, May 24, 1989.)

At a two-day convocation last June in Charlottesville, Va., educators and policymakers expressed disagreement with several of the report's major points, including its proposal that all candidates for national certification be required to hold doctorates in educational administration.

Both Mr. Imig and Mr. Thomson said they expected that policy-board members will recommend that the initial report be revised.

For example, Mr. Thomson said, the board has received "strong negative reaction" against its proposal to develop an examination of candidates' analytical skills.

"We believe that the initial statement was very valuable," Mr. Thomson added, "and we do believe we can build on the original document.''

In particular, the members of the board plan to recast their concern about the poor quality of preservice preparation programs in terms of identifying what administrators "should know and be able to do," Mr. Thomson said.

Heavy Backlash

The members of the board met once after the Charlottesville convocation, but had put their work "on hold" in light of the backlash against some of its recommendations, Mr. Imig said.

For example, the November issue of The School Administrator contains a six-page critique of the proposals by Willis Hawley, director of the center for education policy at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Public Policy Studies. The magazine is published by the American Association of School Administrators, one of the 10 organizations represented on the board.

Mr. Hawley charges that the board's report is more concerned with the shortcomings of educational-administration programs than with problems in the way schools are administered.

"The recommendations of the report could be interpreted as little more than an effort to enhance the resources and status of higher education," Mr. Hawley writes.

But Mr. Clark said he believes that the many "shoddy" programs that prepare school administrators must be eliminated.

The national policy board, he said, should place "more and more emphasis" on supporting universities and states that raise their standards. "I don't think we can get trapped into an argument about specific reforms," Mr. Clark added. "The only danger we face is no reform."

Tougher Standards Sought

Board members agreed last week to work with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education to "strengthen program standards" for administrator preparation, Mr. Imig said.

After the board formulates a new vision of its work, members will decide whether to forge ahead with creating a separate national professional-standards board and will examine what qualities the board wishes to identify in candidates, he added.

In addition, board members plan to draw state-level policymakers concerned with licensure and program approval into their work to lay the groundwork for change, Mr. Thomson said.

Mr. Thomson will submit the policy board's new goals to the Danforth Foundation, which has provided support for the effort, for additional funding

Meanwhile, the board's headquarters will be moved from the University of Virginia to the Washington area.

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