Wallace Foundation took the next step recently in its new $47 million initiative to improve the quality of principal preparation, selecting seven universities – along with their school district and state partners – to develop models for new approaches to preparing school principals.
Earlier this year, we told you about the Wallace-funded University Principal Preparation Initiative, which is designed to respond to a growing consensus that university programs for preparing school leaders have not kept up with the growing demands placed upon school principals. In one study, also commissioned by Wallace, 80 percent of school district superintendents expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of programs to train principals, and many universities conceded their programs need to improve.
The seven universities selected for this initiative are Albany State University in Georgia, Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, Western Kentucky University, San Diego State University in California, the University of Connecticut, and Virginia State University. The schools partnered with state education agencies and school districts that hire their graduates. Wallace sought to identify universities that serve school districts with large numbers of socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
Each school will receive about $2.2 million for the first year of the four-year grant. The schools will receive guidance on redesigning their programming from principal preparation programs reputed for high quality. States in which the schools are located will review their policies and programs, and determine what changes will develop more effective programs for preparing principals statewide.
Principal preparation is a sweet spot for Wallace, which has long made school leadership a key focus of its K-12 education funding. The University Principal Preparation Initiative builds on 15 years of research supported by the funder about what quality school leadership looks like.
In addition to selecting seven universities to receive funding under this initiative, Wallace also selected the RAND Corporation to conduct an evaluation of the initiative, with a final report due in year five. RAND will assess how the universities go about improving the quality of their principal preparation programs and form partnerships with school districts in need of quality principals. Wallace hopes RAND will uncover best practices and insights that can be replicated in other states.
Among in-school factors that affect student achievement, research has shown that sound leadership by a principal is second only to quality teachers. Wallace is one of the largest funders focused on school leadership, and we will watch this initiative unfold to see what lessons and findings emerge that can inform policies and programs nationwide.