Twenty percent of new principals leave their positions within one or two years, disrupting the learning environment for both teachers and students, according to research studies. As public schools fall under greater scrutiny to receive federal and state funding, the need to improve the leadership skills of school-level administrators has never been more important.
Graduate School of Education (GSE) faculty members Stacy Szczesiul and Phitsamay Uy received a $512K grant from the federal Race to the Top education initiative to establish a leadership pipeline for principals in the area. Sixteen professionals from Methuen, Lowell and Billerica public schools were admitted into the Project Lead program that includes GSE’s rigorous M.Ed. in Administration coursework, a leadership academy and extensive school-based mentoring. Successful completion of the two-year program will result in participants receiving a M.Ed. in administration and state administrator licensure.
“Through the program, aspiring principals develop the critical knowledge and skills needed to satisfy the demands of the role,” says Szczesiul.
Federal Policies Demand School Accountability
Federal policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top make schools accountable for student performance. Studies show that principals have an effect on student achievement and other school outcomes such as teacher satisfaction and retention, instructional quality and parent satisfaction.
“With this policy focus on school-level accountability came a whole new wave of research on teacher effectiveness and principal leadership,” says Szczesiul. “It highlighted the need for principals to have a new skill set that includes a technical understanding of effective classroom instruction as well as an understanding of how to mitigate the adaptive challenges teachers face when confronted by the need to improve their practice.”
Project Lead is designed to foster effective principal leadership practice in each district, working primarily with future school leaders while also broadening the training of current school administrators. With the opportunity to establish a long-term principal pipeline, the Project Lead partnership will address today’s problems and provide effective school leadership for the future.
After a competitive selection process from a pool of over 30 candidates, Project Lead is now entering its first phase of training.
Says Szczesiul: “Administrators enrolled in Project Lead will develop the skills and critical knowledge necessary to successfully lead schools thanks to intensive work with expert mentors and university faculty.”