Stanford Researchers Lead the Way
In spring 2006 a team of researchers from Stanford University, led by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and funded by the Wallace Foundation, completed a rigorous nation-wide investigation of the most progressive and innovative educational administration programs in America. After an extensive examination that included dozens of reputable programs and hundreds of interviews they identified eight outstanding programs. The findings and features of the study, titled, Preparing Leaders for a Changing World: Lessons From Exemplary Leadership Development Programs, provided the grist for what was to become, the Great Leaders for Great Schools Academy at Cal Poly Pomona.
A Strong University-District Partnership Procures a Federal Grant and National Recognition
Encouraged by a call for funding proposals from the United States Department of Education's School Leadership Program (SLP), the idea for the Great Leaders for Great Schools Academy emerged in the fall of 2007 through the collaborative efforts of Cal Poly Pomona faculty, the Pomona Unified School District, and an outside evaluator with a track record of writing successful USDE grant applications.
The Pomona Unified School District was an ideal partner since its persistent achievement gaps and high population of low income, minority, and limited English speaking students fit each of the eligibility criteria for the USDE grant. In addition, the PUSD had a history of collaboration with the University, and was a relatively large school district likely to provide a consistent stream of highly qualified candidates each year who were interested in pursuing an administrative credential. The PUSD was a perfect match and provided a rare opportunity to pilot test a dramatically new approach to preparing school leaders in California. The Cal Poly/PUSD grant application was successful and in the fall of 2008, the GLGSA was awarded a $2.5 million grant for a period of five years.
The Cal Poly and PUSD partners agreed that the philosophical core of the GLGSA grant proposal would be anchored upon the belief that the best way to prepare effective school leaders was through learning activities and structures that closely replicated the day-to-day and real world experiences of school principals. The partners believed that it was more important to teach candidates how to perform the tasks of effective leadership than to learn about the theories and concepts of effective leadership. Conceptually, this approach was aligned with key principles of adult learning. Of particular importance was the shared belief that the GLGSA would be most effective and useful if it tailored its program curriculum and learning activities to meet the specific goals and needs of the PUSD, rather than the "one-size-fits-all" approach commonly used by traditional programs.
In the spring of 2010 the California Committee on Accreditation awarded the GLGSA with full accreditation status under its Experimental Program Standards (EPS). The EPS were designed to stimulate program innovation and excellence. To this day, the GLGSA is the only educational administration credential program in California to be accredited under these standards.
More recently, in the fall of 2011, and upon the recommendation of the United States Department of Education (USDE) the GLGSA was invited to apply for membership in the Alliance to Reform in Educational Leadership (AREL), a newly formed collaborative of promising and innovative leadership preparation programs across America. Our application was accepted and the GLGSA is now one of 28 AREL members that include programs from Harvard; Columbia; the University of Illinois, Chicago; Rice University; New York City Leadership Academy; University of Denver; Southern Methodist University, and Loyola University of Chicago.
The GLGSA has also had an impact on the development of new and innovative administrator preparation programs across the country and on the recent efforts by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to revise administrator preparation.
What Makes the GLGSA Unique: Core Program Elements
Compared to each of the 54 traditional administrator preparation programs in California, the GLGSA model contains 10 distinctive elements, each derived conceptually from features described in the Stanford study, and collectively framed to promote powerful teaching and learning through instructional leadership and school change initiatives. These include,
- A curriculum designed to leverage the workplace as the primary medium for leadership development by providing learning activities designed to confront students with problems (and their solutions) as they are commonly experienced by school leaders in the workplace.
- A rigorous process for recruiting highly qualified candidates who are personally nominated by their site principals and vetted by district office leaders before undergoing a performance-based selection process by GLGSA faculty.
- A thematically integrated, problem-based curriculum focused on real world problems and issues and the application of relevant academic content theories and concepts to address particular problem dimensions.
- Regularly scheduled content modules taught by expert PUSD department administrators that provide focused, skill-based, timely and in depth examinations of the various domains of administrative work in the district. Content modules include topics in the following are: a) teaching English learners and managing EL programs, b) leading special needs programs, c) using data to improve instruction, d) personnel administration, e) school finance and district fiscal services and f) supervising and supporting teachers.
- Visits to exemplary schools in the PUSD to observe how their principals and supporting administrators facilitate powerful teaching and learning.
- A central program theory of action titled, Thinking Like an Evaluator, which develops candidates' skills of inquiry, analysis, program implementation and evaluation, and change leadership.
- A performance-based candidate assessment system comprised of formative and summative protocols including several inventories of leadership skill, style, and dispositions. A capstone School-Wide Change Initiative provides candidates and their mentor principals with an opportunity to work collaboratively and to identify and develop a learning-centered reform initiative designed to address individual school needs and district improvement goals.
- A full-time administrative apprenticeship for a four-month period during winter and spring quarters. Each apprentice is paired with an experienced and successful mentor principal, trained by Cal Poly to assume mentorship roles.
- Individual coaching to support the growth and career transition needs of GLGSA graduates who become administrators in the PUSD, and group coaching to support GLGSA graduates who have yet to attain administrative positions in the district.
- The development of an intellectually vibrant and professionally supportive Professional Learning Community (PLC signature pedagogy) that incrementally expands its network as each new cohort completes the program.