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North Carolina State Addresses Principal Preparation Themes

“Wait, what happened?!?”
“I had to help deliver a baby today.”
“You what!?!”

In the first day of her full-time residency, Jennifer Wilker had to help one of her teachers deliver her baby. Jennifer was in Warren New Tech High School, which is located near Norlina—a  small, rural town in northeastern North Carolina that is over 30 miles from the Halifax Regional Hospital.

Though this seems like an extreme example, principals all over the country will no doubt smile, knowing that Jennifer’s experience isn’t too atypical.

The traditional view of the principalship was one of administration—making sure that students were safe, that the lights were turned on, that teachers showed up, etc. While all this is still true, principals are now asked to be the instructional leaders of their buildings; they are asked to reach out to parents and network with their communities; they are asked to evaluate their teachers through time-intensive classroom observations and pre- and post-conferences; they are asked to use a variety of teacher and student data to inform their school’s vision, school improvement plan, instructional program, and human capital decision making; and on and on. The list continues to grow and expand. And all of this while working within an environment of transparency and high stakes, test-based accountability.

So what are the implications for university-based principal preparation? How can programs develop a deliver model that ensures that it is responsive to these changes?

At NC State, we are one of seven university programs engaged in the Wallace Foundation’s University Preparation Program Initiative (UPPI). Wallace found five themes related to university-based principal preparation. Through UPPI, we are addressing these themes by

  1. Establishing strong university-district partnerships. From the Wake County Public School System, one of the largest in the country, to a consortium of 13 rural districts in the northeast that have partnered with us since 2010, we are working collaboratively with local districts to define what effective leadership looks like in their districts, then deliver a program that is current, reflects best practices, and meets their local district needs. Our program has a particular focus on developing leaders who serve in turnaround school settings.
  2. Implementing practice-based assessments and rigorous, full-time internships. Starting with a selection process that includes role plays, interviews, and in-basket activities, then continuing every semester with practice-based scenarios and assessments, we make sure that our students are developed and evaluated on competencies and skillsets that are rooted in practice. In addition, all of our students serve yearlong, full-time internships, receiving a provision license to act as an administrator of record. Throughout the internship, they work closely with an executive coach and principal mentor to ensure they are developing their leadership abilities in each of the state leadership standards.
  3. Working with state leaders to revise school executive standards and evaluate graduate outcomes. With new national standards, we are working as a state to update the state’s school leader standards. We have also partnered with the Department of Public Instruction and SAS to launch a statewide leadership development dashboard, which will help university programs evaluate the outcomes of our program graduates and provide districts with information on their leadership pipeline.

For more information, please visit our website.


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