HJR 20/SJR 58: Commission to Review, Study, and Reform Educational Leadership

September 16, 2003

At its second meeting of 2003, the Commission to Review, Study and Reform Educational Leadership received testimony regarding a potential model for a principals’ academy in Virginia, an update on the implementation of the State Action for Education Leadership Project (SAELP) grant, the work of the Task Force to Evaluate and Redesign Preparation Programs and Professional Development for School Leaders, and the results of surveys regarding administrative licensure graduates and professional development for superintendents.

Principals’ Academy

The evolution and implementation of revised Standards of Learning and Accreditation, assessments, leadership standards, and school performance report cards have heightened the need for principals who are effectively equipped to address new educational challenges and enhanced accountability requirements. A Principals’ Center for Innovative Leadership, operated by a foundation but reflecting a public/private partnership, could address supplemental training for induction principals (principals with three or fewer years of service) as well as veteran principals (those with at least four years of service).

A standards-driven approach, fueled by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards, the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, and Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence, as well as leadership principles employed by highly successful businesses, would direct the center’s efforts. Professional organizations, such as the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals (VAESP), the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals (VASSP), and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, would join public and private sector partners to coordinate efforts in center funding and information transfer. Foundation trustees, reflecting a cross-section of organizations and individuals, would have primary responsibility for fundraising; a board of advisors, comprised of representatives of professional organizations, educators, and others, would provide direction for the center. While operation and management of the center itself would rest with VAESP and VASSP, the board of advisors would employ an executive director for the center.

Program participants—center fellows—would be selected to comprise four cohorts of 20 members each, addressing specific target groups. Principals of schools accredited with warning would commit to a three-year center program and ultimately be teamed with a “corrective action principal”—an education leader who would serve in the school with the principal. A three-year commitment would also be required of induction principals; this cohort would receive training in basic skills at a single training site, with identified professional conferences supplementing the program. Veteran principals would commit to a two-year program. Assistant principals would commit to a two-year program that is similar to the offerings for the induction principal cohort.

The center’s initiatives would be delivered through center seminars and conferences; professional development institutes sponsored by VAESP and VASSP; self-directed core learning modules, using technology-enhanced learning; and principal “coaches”—principals who may serve as auditors or mentors. “Corrective action” principals would assist principals in struggling schools. An evaluation process would be designed to ensure center effectiveness as well as document subsequent school improvement and fellows’ alterations in their leadership and management methods.

Center fellows would incur no costs. Annual funding of $400,000 to $600,000 might be required to support the center; initial “seed” money from the Commonwealth might help with start-up.

Task Force Recommendations

The Task Force to Evaluate and Redesign Preparation Programs and Professional Development for School Leaders, complementing the commission’s efforts and charged to examine regulations addressing educational leadership, has proposed recommendations addressing leadership preparation, professional development, and specific programs and partnerships. The task force has recommended:

1. Alignment of principal preparation programs with the standards outlined in the Board’s Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers, Administrators, and Superintendents;
2. Development of a core curriculum to ensure a strong, consistent foundation in current principles of effective leadership;
3. Identification and alignment of internship requirements with “real life” experiences of principals;
4. Establishment of levels of rigor and quality of instruction required of school leadership faculty, including adjunct faculty;
5. Incorporation of a more rigorous design for evaluation of principal preparation programs as an integral part of the Board of Education and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) procedures;
6. Required passage of the School Leadership Licensure Assessment (SLLA) for endorsement in administration and supervision;
7. Development of local and regional leadership academies;
8. Implementation of a mentor program for school leaders;
9. Study of the feasibility of creating a two-tiered licensure system, comprised of initial and professional licenses for school leaders;
10. Development of initiatives to improve public perception of the value of school administrators and the provision of adequate compensation for all school leaders;
11. Provision of high quality, continuous, collaborative professional development programs for school leaders and leaders from other enterprises; and
12. Enhanced service-orientation among institutions of higher education.


The dean of the School of Education at VCU provided an update on the Commonwealth’s SAELP grant. Noting the current gap between education degree requirements, established by higher education, and administrator licensure requirements, he cited increased coordination between SCHEV and the Department of Education and combined or “embedded” initiatives for professional development offered by universities and school divisions.

Survey Results

A survey of 258 Virginia school superintendents, and deputy, assistant, and associate superintendents, with a response rate of 77 percent, indicated that 95 percent of superintendents work 50 hours a week, and 55 percent of superintendents indicated a 60-hour work week. Significant turnover among superintendents is anticipated in the next few years, as 50 percent of respondents indicated they will retire or be in a new position in three to five years. Twenty-two percent expect to retire or leave education altogether in three years.

While job satisfaction was high, respondents were typically dissatisfied with working conditions, including hours, and salary. Seventy percent indicate an average or high need for professional development opportunities; instructional leadership and the use of technology ranked high among needed expertise. Improving student achievement in a data-driven environment also rated highly as a desired skill. Job experience ranked as the most valued training for superintendents, while graduate work was rated by 50 percent of respondents as “much valued.”

A survey of graduates of administrator preparation programs revealed that 86 percent of respondents had enrolled in administrative licensure training programs to obtain an administrative position. While surveys were sent to more than 15 approved education licensure programs, respondents represented only six institutions: William & Mary, James Madison, Old Dominion, Regent, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Graduates of Virginia and VCU comprised 69 percent of respondents. This survey also indicates an expected significant turnover: 77 percent of respondents indicated they will seek initial administrator employment, a lateral move, or a different position.

Cited as a significant issue and challenge was instructional leadership, including improving staff morale, staff development, teacher evaluation, and use of research for instructional planning. Professional development needs reflected a variety of issues; respondents also indicated that higher education courses, workshops, and partnerships provided the greatest assistance. Two-thirds of respondents had no knowledge of ISLLC standards, likely indicating that their respective preparation programs had not emphasized these standards. A significant 83 percent rated their preparation programs as good to excellent; however, preparation in technology ranked lowest among training quality. The survey also reflected a great range of hours and balance of activities in internships.

Members inquired about data regarding the success of principals’ academies, including data reflecting improvement in schools whose principals did not attend an academy. The commission’s final meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 17, at 1:00 p.m. in House Room D, at which time the commission will review final recommendations of the task force and consider any endorsements and recommendations.

The Hon. Phillip A. Hamilton

For information, contact:
Kathleen G. Harris
Division of Legislative Services



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