Research has shown that school principals matter greatly to teaching and learning, but the university training they receive for the job has struggled to keep pace with the post’s growing demands. To test a path forward, in 2016 The Wallace Foundation launched the University Principal Preparation Initiative, providing support to seven universities in seven different states to better align their principal preparation programs with evidence-based practices.
This brief summarizes key points for preparation programs from the RAND Corporation’s five-year study of the effort. Among other things, RAND finds that through collaboration with school districts, state organizations and others, universities can defy expectations about institutional resistance to change and bring about meaningful program redesign.
Focusing on how to bring the programs in line with research-based characteristics of high-quality preparation—such as providing students with meaningful internships or similar field work to gain practical experience—the teams carrying out the redesign were able to strengthen major program components: recruitment and selection of applicants; curriculum and instruction; clinical experiences; and use of cohorts.
The work encountered challenges, which ranged from time constraints to some pushback from faculty members. A number of factors made it feasible, however. They included collaboration based on strong partnerships; a commitment to improvement; use of a tool to identify areas for improvement; and the development of logic models.
The seven universities were Albany (Ga.) State University, the University of Connecticut, Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, Virginia State University and Western Kentucky University.