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Educational Leadership Preconference Participants Share Promising Practice, Plan Action Steps

In conjunction with the 69th Annual Meeting, AACTE hosted a daylong workshop March 1 titled “Strengthening Leadership Through Communities of Professional Learning Educational Leadership Preconference,” sponsored by The Wallace Foundation. The event was attended by higher education leaders from across the nation, who shared model strategies and identified priorities and actions needed to strengthen principal preparation across local contexts.

The agenda featured two interactive segments, both of which explored ways to renew principal preparation programs through collaborative action.

University Principal Preparation Initiative

The first segment spotlighted the origin and progress of The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI). UPPI is a $47 million project that funds seven universities, along with their state and district partners, to develop models for improving university-run principal preparation programs. The project resulted from findings highlighted in The Wallace Foundation’s 2016 report Improving University Principal Preparation Programs: Five Themes from the Field, which was released at a similar AACTE preconference event in 2016. (You can learn more about the report and its release here.)

Nicholas Pelzer, program officer for The Wallace Foundation, provided an overview of UPPI and a comprehensive update on the work undertaken by the institutions and partners involved in the initiative. His presentation also included a segment of The Wallace Foundation’s video series, “A Bold Move to Better Prepare Principals: The Illinois Story,” which highlights how one state worked with universities, nonprofits, and districts to change the way principals are trained and licensed to enable more students to achieve and more schools to improve. Following his presentation, project leads from two of the seven UPPI institutions – Richard Gonzales from the University of Connecticut and Marguerita DeSander and Tom Stewart from Western Kentucky University – highlighted details from their project work, including how they are collaborating with partners to address specific local goals and challenges.

Planned Professional Learning Community

The presentations provided a strong foundation for reflective conversations that took place during the second segment of the preconference. Attendees and presenters took part in a large focus group discussion followed by a series of smaller, facilitated table conversations to explore promising practices and common challenges that influence the renewal of principal preparation practice.

In response to feedback from the 2016 AACTE educational leadership preconference, this year’s discussions were facilitated with the goal of moving conversation to action. To address the common challenges they identified, participants outlined possible actions that could support the field to improve practice. The ideas generated through these conversations will be used to inform plans to develop an AACTE Principal Preparation Professional Learning Community (PLC) topical action group (TAG).

Through a follow-up survey, participants commented that the information and opportunities provided by the preconference event offered valuable experiences that will influence their own work. AACTE is grateful to The Wallace Foundation for supporting participants in coalescing a community of professional learning to explore pathways for improvements in principal preparation practice.


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Amanda Lester

Associate Director for Member Engagement and Support, AACTE

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