The scarcity of so-called “turnaround principals” has led more urban districts to get involved directly with local colleges of education and other training programs to groom a specialized group of new leaders, according to a study released last week by the Wallace Foundation.
Researchers from the Boston-based Education Development Center analyzed leadership training in eight districts that received foundation grants to experiment with principal preparation: Boston; Chicago; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Jefferson County, Ky.; Providence, R.I.; St. Louis; Springfield, Ill.; and Springfield, Mass.
At a minimum, most of the districts changed their hiring criteria for school leaders assigned to work in struggling schools. They required those principals to have more explicit understanding of school and district systems and procedures, as well as internships in difficult schools.
The study also found that some districts could get education colleges to make changes if they were forceful enough—three districts actually established their own training programs that competed with local universities’ programs—yet eventually, most districts collaborated with their universities. For example, Springfield, Mass., which initially devised a competing training program, later formed a partnership in which college faculty members teach a curriculum tailored to district needs.
In contrast to standard college-based principal training, which often lasts one or two years, district preparatory programs spanned three to four years, including more seminars directly related to district issues and course schedules built around full-time internships. But the jury is out on how good a job the new specialist principals will do. By the study’s end, the first cohorts of new principals had just started their tenures in the schools.
A version of this article appeared in the November 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as Study Tracks Training Of Principals in 8 Cities