Hoping to tackle an expected shortage in qualified school principals in coming years, Western Kentucky University’s revamped Principal Preparation Program is gearing up for its first summer cohort, which is now accepting applications.
“Our nationally recognized Principal Preparation Program places a cutting-edge leadership pathway within reach of our Kentucky teachers,” said Corinne Murphy, dean of WKU’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences.
The college has been leading a yearslong effort to work with several area school districts in hopes of reinventing the program’s curriculum and crafting a new leadership tracking tool that will help employers find top-notch candidates to fill critical positions.
The college first launched the initiative in 2016 with funding from the Wallace Foundation, a national philanthropy organization focused in part on improving learning for disadvantaged children.
So far, its efforts seem to be paying off. Last fall, when the program first rebooted with a new curriculum, it saw a cohort of 22 students, roughly double the size it would normally see, according to Marguerita DeSander, department head and an associate professor in WKU’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research.
Now, the program is continuing with its summer cohort, applications for which are being accepted through April 20. Applicants may apply online at wku.edu/ealr/programs/prin_prep.php.
“Now more than ever, we see the importance of thoughtful and qualified school principals leading education into a new age of learning – this launch comes at a time for students to consider educational leadership as a viable and rewarding next step in serving our communities,” Murphy said.
The program, able to be completed in just four semesters, aims to make educators “learning leaders” by emphasizing school improvement, communication, education equity, among other leadership aspects, DeSander said.
That focus better equips educators for long-term success as school leaders, DeSander said, adding that schools often experience frequent principal turnover.
“If they’re better prepared for the challenges of equity and school improvement, then they’re more likely to stay longer,” DeSander said.
In 2016, when the program’s coordinators first embarked on the effort to reinvent its curriculum, they did so aiming to directly address the everyday issues area school districts experience.
“It was developed based on the needs of our community and our region,” she said.
To accomplish that goal, the program’s coordinators have invited area school districts to offer feedback on the candidates and exactly how well prepared they are. That feedback is used to inform ongoing changes to the program, DeSander said, with the first iteration happening in January after the program’s relaunch last fall.
“If we need to change something in the curriculum (or clinical experiences) we’re going to change it in real-time,” DeSander said.