Who you are: Introducing yourself during this visit should focus 1) on your affiliation with UCEA, 2) if applicable, your status as a citizen within the congressperson’s state, 3) and as a professor who prepares educational leaders. Be careful not to give the impression that you are representing your university. Representing your university requires special permission from your institution. You can mention the institution you are working for as long as you don’t speak on its behalf.
What UCEA is: It will be helpful for you to have a summary statement of what UCEA is. We suggest that you describe UCEA as a consortium of research universities with masters and doctoral programs in educational leadership that are among the highest ranked in the country. We also suggest that you stress that membership in UCEA requires a rigorous program review and that UCEA membership standards reflect the field’s best understanding of quality leadership preparation. We would encourage you to point out that UCEA faculty are engaged in both the preparation of future leaders as well as research on leadership, educational reform, organizational change, and teacher professional learning, among other important issues. Finally, please convey that a top priority for UCEA and its membership is the quality preparation of current and future educational leaders, which is what we came to talk with them about.
UCEA Positions:1) High quality leadership preparation, like those provided by UCEA institutions, are essential to effective leadership practice and, thus, to teacher quality and student learning. 2) Ensuring continued high quality leadership preparation will require valid, reliable methodology and infrastructure for technical assistance; data sharing; and guidance in collecting, interpreting and using evaluation data for program improvement.
Issue One: The Link Between Effective Leadership, Teacher Quality and Student Learning
The educational challenge of the 21st century is to achieve higher levels of learning for all children. This theme has become the overarching issue on the nation’s domestic policy agenda as evidenced by NCLB.
Much of the recent attention on increasing student achievement and decreasing the achievement gaps has focused on the critical relationship between effective teachers and student achievement. Sanders and Horn (1998), for example, asserted that the “single largest factor affecting academic growth of populations of students is differences in effectiveness of individual classroom teachers” (p. 27). With the adoption of NCLB in 2001, all states were required to provide each student a highly qualified teacher, as well as to equalize teacher quality across schools (ECS, 2006). However, most states have failed to meet the teacher quality standards set forth by NCLB, and there is little evidence that policies and programs focused on increasing the number and quality of teachers, such as teacher pay schemes, financial incentives, alternative certification, and mentoring and induction programs, have had much of an effect (ECS, 2006; Peske & Haycock, 2006; Fuller, 2005).
One overlooked aspect of increasing teacher quality is the role of the principal. Contemporary views of school leadership place the principal much closer to the heart of schooling–teaching and learning (Cox, 2003).
With this shift has come the acknowledgement that the leadership of principals has an important impact on schools and student achievement (Heck & Hallinger, 1999; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson & Wahlstrom, 2004; Waters, Marzano & McNulty, 2003). Indeed, a recent report from the National Staff Development Council (Killion, 2000) claimed that “strengthening school leadership” is essential for meeting the challenges facing schools (p. 1). The literature on teacher professional learning, for example, emphasizes the importance of teachers’ relationships with their principals in that principals play a leading role in designing and supporting school social contexts that in turn support professional learning (Goldring and Rallis, 1993; Leithwood & Montgomery, 1982; Rosenblum, Louis & Rossmiller, 1994; Smylie & Hart, 1999). Similarly, work by the Center for Teaching Quality has found that the leadership behaviors of principals can create positive working conditions that encourage teachers to remain at a school regardless of the student demographics or other factors often associated with high levels of teacher turnover (Hirsch, Emerick, Church & Fuller, 2006).
Issue Two: Quality Leaders Are Prepared in Quality Higher Education Programs
The centrality of leadership to school effectiveness has brought increased attention to how educational leaders are prepared. Policy makers, funders and educational experts strive to identify programs that effectively prepare future leaders who are able to lead school improvement and enhanced student achievement (e.g., Young, Petersen & Short, 2002; SREB, 2005; USDoE, 2005). There are currently 459 master’s granting, 169 specialist granting, and 195 doctoral granting leadership preparation programs nationwide (Baker, Orr, & Young, 2007), many of which have developed within the last 10 years within institutions with small faculties and few resources. While, the quality of these programs is uneven (Young, Crow, Ogawa & Orr, 2005), UCEA programs are among the highest ranking in the country, providing quality leadership preparation.
To be successful, educational leaders need specific expertise as well as broad conceptual and analytic skills, which is why preparation within graduate programs is important. Quality leadership programs, like those in UCEA institutions, aim to develop the intellectual, moral, and performance capacity of students preparing to take on leadership roles in school.
A growing body of research has demonstrated that selected program characteristics are not only more effective for the preparation and development of educational leaders but that they also yield better graduate outcomes (Jackson & Kelly, 2002; Davis, et al, 2005; USDoE, 2005). To illustrate, the more efficacious, high quality leadership preparation programs have: a) the majority of program’s coursework taught by full-time tenure-track faculty members who make significant efforts to identify, develop, and promote relevant knowledge focused on the essential problems of schooling, leadership and administrative practice; b) a rigorous selection process, that gives priority to under-served groups, particularly racial/ethnic minorities; c) a clear focus, coherent organization and clarified values about leadership; d) standards based content and internships; e) low student-faculty ratio (i.e., 20-1) and active, student-centered instruction; f) supportive organizational structures to facilitate student retention, engagement and placement; g) strong, collaborative relationships with local school districts; h) a systematic process for evaluating and improving programs and coursework; and i) professional growth opportunities for faculty (Darling-Hammond, et al, 2007; Jackson & Kelly, 2002; Orr, 2007; UCEA, 2005). Programs with such features yield better graduate outcomes—in what they learn and their career advancement, and, in turn, how they practice leadership and foster school improvement (Orr & Orphanos, 2007).
Issue Three: Quality Preparation Programs Are engaged in Ongoing Program Improvement Efforts
Significant attention has been directed to identifying research-based innovations and best practice in university-based leadership preparation programs (Davis, et al, 2005; Jackson & Kelly, 2002; Orr, 2006; Southern Regional Educational Board [SREB], 2005; US Department of Education [USDoE], 2005). Yet nationally, few of the almost 500 graduate leadership preparation programs have access to the valid, reliable methodology and infrastructure for technical assistance, data sharing, and guidance in collecting, interpreting and using evaluation data for program improvement. Such resources are necessary to ascertain program effectiveness and impact on the 16,000 masters’ degree graduates they produce annually (and almost 6,000 specialist and doctoral graduates) (Baker, Orr, & Young, 2007).
Evaluation is an integral requirement for national and state program accreditation (Baker, Orr, & Young, 2007; NPBEA, 2002), which has placed increased emphasis on the competencies graduates need for licensure and effective, ethical leadership (Roach, 2007). However, little agreement exists on desired impact or reliable measures.
Leadership preparation programs across the country need increased capacity to gauge their impact, identify successes and areas for improvement, or determine how well they prepare aspiring educational leaders particularly underserved racial/ethnic groups and communities for productive careers and educational improvement. Specifically, programs need: (1) evaluation models—measures, methodology and instruments—to evaluate the impact of their preparation on graduates’ subsequent leadership work; (2) assistance building their capacity to incorporate evaluation research and support continuous program improvement efforts; and (3) a database of evidence for benchmarking performance over time and within regional and institutional contexts. With more accessible evaluation resources and support, programs can make research-based program improvements, integrate evaluation practice into their work, and investigate benefits for all graduates and the school communities they will lead.
This situation is not unique to higher education, however, few states have designed data systems that enable them to gain a comprehensive of their education systems and impact. Many lack detailed data on all school personnel, including principals, their current employment, certification status, and academic preparation. Federal agencies like NCES could provide technical assistance in this effort. Data of this nature would be helpful not just to states but to higher education as well as they determine how well their graduates practice leadership and foster school improvement.
UCEA’s Legislative Issue: Will the Congress and state legislatures provide support for the development of quality university-based school leadership preparation programs?
In Your State: