School & District Management

Competition Yields Funds to Assist 3 Urban Districts In Developing Principals

By Lynn Olson — September 04, 2007 3 min read
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The Broad Foundation has awarded $8.3 million in grants for in-depth principal-preparation programs in three districts.

The grants from the Los Angeles-based foundation will prepare and support 150 novice principals in Chicago, Gwinnett County, Ga., and Long Beach, Calif., over the next three years—from vigorous recruitment efforts to on-the-job coaching and mentoring.

“Principals are the front-line leaders who are critical to the success of a school,” Eli Broad, the founder of the philanthropy, said in a statement announcing the awards. “We are investing in the necessary recruitment, training, and ongoing development that will cultivate top-line talent into the principalship and ultimately lead to improved student achievement, particularly in our urban schools.”

The foundation has a history of supporting programs to prepare school leaders for urban districts. But this marks the first time it has conducted a broad request for proposals from interested big-city districts, nonprofit organizations and universities, and charter- management organizations. More than 40 programs applied for funding.

The three winning programs “all demonstrated a real commitment to monitoring and evaluating student achievement as part of their program design, and the districts have demonstrated real gains in student achievement,” said Frances McLaughlin, the senior director of the foundation, who oversaw the application process.

She added that the winners recognized training as only one part of a comprehensive principal-development process that includes actively recruiting and selecting the right talent, training the candidates and matching them to the right schools, and providing ongoing support and regular assessments of their performance on the job.

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Inside the ‘Long Beach Way’

The 90,000-student Long Beach Unified School District will receive $2.7 million over three years for its Aspiring Principal Apprentice Cohort Program. The grant will expand a current pilot program in California’s third-largest school system, including adding a yearlong apprenticeship, to train 50 principals.

The 154,000-student Gwinnett County school system, just outside Atlanta, will receive about $3.5 million for its Quality-Plus Leader Program, which recruits candidates from the district and provides them with a yearlong training program, including a 60-day residency with a successful principal and continuing support once they are placed. The grant will pay for the training of some 60 new principals.

Glenn E. Pethel, the executive director of leadership development for the Gwinnett County district, said it anticipates needing some 400 new assistant principals and nearly 100 new principals in the next five years because of staff attrition and student- enrollment growth. The Broad grant, in part, will help fund the residency portion of the program as well as mentoring by exemplary veteran principals during the novices’ first two years on the job.

The University of Illinois at Chicago will receive $2.1 million over three years for its doctoral program in urban education leadership. Under the program, the Chicago district hires doctoral candidates as principals early in their coursework. The candidates then receive site-based coaching and mentoring from former high-performing principals as the recruits earn their doctoral degrees. The grant will support up to 50 new principals to work in the more than 420,000-student Chicago public schools, which lost 159 principals to retirement last school year.

“We make a flat-out statement that we are preparing urban principals to transform schools,” said Peter R. Martinez, one of the Chicago program’s co-founders, “which to us means that they are going to move those schools in terms of student-achievement scores 50 or 60 percentage points over a certain period of time.”

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