Who Will Educate Our Candidates? The Politicalization of
Educational Leadership Preparation Programs

Marilyn Korostoff and Linda Orozco
[marilynk@csulb.edu & Lorozco@fullerton.edu]

Introduction

Educational administration preparation programs are under siege. Currently responding to the administrator shortage nationwide, politicians, policymakers, school district leadership and professional educational organizations are searching for creative answers and solutions to solve the potential leadership void. There IS a crippling shortage of qualified school administrators. However, there is not a shortage of licensed/credentialed administrative candidates. In California for example, the Commission for Teaching Credentialing, (the agency that also certifies administrators), licensed 4538 candidates between 1996 and 2000 (CTC Task Force document, 2001). These students earned Certificates of Eligibility which allows service as an administrator in any position requiring an administrative services credential. It would seem that this number would be more than adequate to fill the vacant positions considering there are approximately 7,000 public elementary, middle and high schools in the state (EdData,
http:www.ed-data.k12.ca.us//dev/State.asp ).

Unfortunately, fewer administrators are stepping forward to lead public schools (Argetsinger, 2000; EdSource, 2001; Educational Research Service, 1998). In a recent California study, only 38% of qualified school administrators actually assumed leadership positions. The overwhelming majority (62%) chose to remain in the classroom or change professions entirely (EdSource, 2001). This is a staggering loss of leadership potential. No other profession can claim such a high loss of interest after professional preparation.

Why are qualified, professionally prepared educators unwilling to assume leadership roles? Many posit that it is the result of job disillusionment created by the changing demands of the position (Orozco, 2001). Others claim the problem stems from inadequate time to satisfy parents, teachers, students and community or social problems in the school that make focusing on instructional practices difficult (Korostoff & Paull, 2001). Increased accountability with no matching authority to make the required improvements and inadequate salaries that don't match the time invested are also cited as major deterrents (Educational Research Service, 1998). Even school superintendents report the greatest impediments to recruiting qualified school administrators include intense job stress and excessive work hours (EdSource, 2001).

There is another reason however, unconnected to job related issues that presents troubling implications. Some critics, most notably legislators, policymakers, and accrediting agencies believe that it is the administrator preparation programs that are simply not doing the job. Now, politically motivated by the shortage of school leaders, these critics claim administrator preparation should no longer be the primary responsibility of higher education institutions thus ignoring the reasons for the shortage cited above. Many claim the programs are irrelevant, too theoretical, or even unrelated to what actually transpires on the job (EdCal, June 11, 2001). Their proposed solutions are to 1) remove administrator preparation from higher education institutions completely and allow local districts either individually or in consortiums to provide in-house training; 2) allow school districts to contract with outside agencies directly to provide all or portions of the necessary coursework and field experiences that are needed to obtain licensure; 3) provide entry level certification by taking an exam that assesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities typically provided in an administrator preparation program without actually participating in such a program; 4) permit colleges and universities to provide services and programs to augment local programs; or 5) continue allowing colleges and universities to be the primary certification agencies and to continue with the collaborative district/university partnerships currently in place.

Purpose

The purpose of this discussion is to explore and to respond to the following guiding questions: What political and resulting legislative forces are surfacing to challenge the core responsibility of leadership preparation programs traditionally provided by colleges and universities? How extensive is the political-legislative climate regarding this issue across the United States? What are some effective policy, programmatic and political responses educational leadership programs might consider in order to retain the core responsibility for leadership preparation and education?

To facilitate the inquiry, the discussion is organized in the following manner. First, after a brief description of the data sources used, a brief summary of the current legislative climate related to administrator preparation programs in California is presented. California’s story provides an excellent case study example of the political and legislative forces affecting the current administrator licensing procedures. Then, in order to gain a national perspective, data are presented that provide information on the extent to which these same political issues are impacting other selected state licensing policies. Next, a theoretical framework is offered to provide a contextual explanation of the political processes currently at work. Finally, the implications of the political influences are discussed followed by recommendations and conclusions.

Data Sources

Information regarding California’s current situation derive from the actual legislation found on the California government website (www.leginfo.ca.gov). The data that inform the discussion on the national perspectives outside California stem from an online survey e-mailed during March 2002 to125 professors of educational administration across the country.

The survey was composed by the authors to ascertain information on a state-by-state basis regarding licensing information, where leadership preparation program responsibilities reside, alternative pathways and providers if any, political and legislative action, if any, and political climate. Respondents were encouraged to provide their overall impressions and comments.

The survey return rate was 31% with 39/125 responding representing 26 states.

Data Limitations

The survey was distributed to professors of Educational Administration/Leadership who are all members of the Special Interest Group – Teaching in Educational Administration of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). In some instances, several professors from the same state responded. These same professors often had different perspectives on their state’s political climate; these differences created some information discrepancies within some states. Therefore, data should be globally interpreted from the perspectives of those most closely aligned with administrator preparation, i.e. those who would be professionally affected by political action and legislation, and those who may have differing knowledge and information levels regarding their state’s individual situation.

California’s Story

California politicians and policymakers have been quite active proposing recommendations, changes and legislation to help to ease the shortage of administrative vacancies. For example, in a recently introduced legislative bill, SB1655 authored by State Senator Alan Scott, proposes the following as an alternative to the current legislation governing administrator licensing which is quoted in part and paraphrased in part:

" . . . as an expedited alternative to Section 44270, the commission may issue a preliminary services credential with a specialization in administrative services to a candidate who completes the following requirements":

Possess a teaching or services credential;

Completes the experience requirement (i.e. must complete three years of teaching experience); and meets one of the following:

A) Successfully passes a test

B) Possesses a master’s degree in educational administration or a related field.

The legislation continues with alternate provisions for granting the Tier II or Professional Administrative Services credential:

". . . the commission may issue a professional clear services credential with a specialization in administrative services to a candidate who holds or is eligible for a preliminary services credential with a specialization in administrative services, and who meets one of the following requirements:

Successfully completes an accredited program (will this mean the programs currently authorized to license or alternative providers?)

Demonstrates mastery of commission accredited field work performance standards (does not require additional program training)

Passes a national administrator performance assessment adopted by the commission.

(SECTION 1. Section 44270.5 SB 1655 proposed legislation, February 21, 2002)

If passed, this type of California certification would provide candidates with the Preliminary Administrative Services (Tier I) credential by simply passing a test or by possessing a master’s degree in educational administration or a related field. This legislation has two troubling aspects: 1) Can a test adequately assess the competency and knowledge of potential school leaders and 2) How will "related field" be defined? Although not included in this legislation, statewide forums were held by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing around administrator preparation issues. These meetings resulted in support by some to remove institutions of higher education as being the only entities authorized to issue the administrative services credentials. Instead, "alternative providers", certified by the CTC such as Association of California School Leaders and the California School Leadership Academy would be permitted to apply for certification status and issue credentials as well. If districts chose not to employ the services of outside providers, they could choose to become accredited themselves and offer their own credentialing programs. Essentially, one could now become an administrator without the advanced, in-depth and comprehensive program typically offered by institutions of higher education.

The Bill also provides alternative certification pathways regarding the Tier II Professional Administrative Services credential requirements. Does this also mean that "alternative providers" will be able to participate? How will candidates demonstrate mastery of field performance standards? Who will develop the performance assessment and how will candidates be held accountable for their knowledge? Answers to these questions have yet to be addressed.

To further politicize the issue, prior to the introduction of SB 1655, the California Legislature passed AB 75, the Principals’ Training Act. This was in response to those who believe that one of the causes of the shortage may be the lack of ongoing support and mentoring and the notion that current credentialing programs need to be more connected to job responsibilities. This program provides $15 million to create additional training for current site administrators. This program would provide ongoing mentoring and support for both new and veteran principals and for those new to the administrative ranks. In addition, this type of program would count toward the Tier II Professional Administrative Services credentialing requirement. Locally based and administered, (also known as grow-your own administrator programs in some circles), the Training Program would provide but would not necessarily be limited to 1) curriculum in school finance and personnel management, 2) core academic standards, 3) curriculum frameworks and instructional materials, 4) pupil assessment instruments, 5) management technology, and 6) instructional leadership and management strategies. This legislation provides school districts with the capacity to develop their own credentialing programs and/or contract with any outside agency or professional organization on a fee for service basis.

Although this legislation may appear long overdue to some, California's two-tiered administration preparation process already requires additional training hours for all new administrators. Specifically, the professional administrative services credential requirement (Tier II) addresses all the areas delineated in AB 75 and more. The program requires an induction and district mentoring support piece and 120 clock hours of self directed professional development.

Currently, higher education institutions must be accredited and their programs approved to grant professional state licensure at either level. But why is there such a push to remove leadership preparation responsibilities from colleges and universities, eliminate some of the rigorous credentialing requirements, and open the field to a market economy?

The answer to this question is complex but might best be framed by understanding the economic implications associated with AB 75 legislation. $15 million dollars is a sizeable sum, especially in a climate where financial resources are scarce, pressure on districts to academically perform is high, and accountability legislation increasingly determines if districts will receive additional funding for high or improved performance. With the possibility of this new money, private educational organizations that typically provide professional development programs on a fee for service basis are salivating. The opportunity to increase their coffers (after all, these organizations need funds to sustain themselves) is irresistible. One statewide professional administrators association has even developed a 'position paper' encouraging legislation and monies be applied to 'for-profit organizations' to train school administrators (ACSA, 2001). In order to secure a share of the pie, several private agencies have positioned themselves well to be first in line to apply for state government funding. This also means that any agency, with or without reputable credentials could bid for a district's attention promising training for their administrators. However, what is notably absent from the legislation is accountability language. How will all these new providers be monitored? How will these programs be evaluated? Will providers' programs be subject to the rigorous and intense statewide accreditation process currently in place?

National Perspectives

California is certainly not alone in this turbulent climate of political and legislative change. Many in the profession are aware of one or two states that have abandoned the practice of administrator preparation as the sole responsibility of colleges and universities. However, until now, there has not been a systematic effort to collect state-by-state data that would provide an opportunity to critically analyze the current political situation to inform the professorate on the status, trends, issues and implications of this phenomenon across states. To fill this information void, presented below are data arrayed on a state by state basis from sample respondents.

 

Table 1: Status Report of States’ Licensing Requirements, Alternative Pathway Options and Political Action Climate. No. of responding states: 26

 

STATE

&

Licensing Agency

Lic./

Cred.

Req’d?

Univ.

Sole Path

to License

 

Alternative Path(s) &/or

alternative provider agencies

 

Source of Challenge

Political &

Legis.

Climate

ALABAMA

Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

CURRENT:

Petition to State Supt. & State School Board from local supt. or school board.

Legislature and private business.

MINOR

ARIZONA

Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

None

Internecine warfare as state funding depends on FTE and one university aggressively markets its program to school districts, hiring school district administrators to teach courses.

NO

CALIFORNIA

Commission on Teacher

Credentialing

(CTC)

Yes

Yes, but >

CURRENT:

Internship- placement 'on the job' while administrator enters and completes a preparation program

PENDING:

Licensing agency approved:

-test-option instead of ed. adm. prog.

-non-univ. providers (districts, others)

-MA in ‘related field’ (non- ed. adm.?)

-no cred. for some central office adm. jobs

Professional admin. assn.

Some supts. & personnel directors

County offices of education

Licensing agency

 

 

MAJOR

COLORADO

Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes, but >

CURRENT:

Districts endorse for the Professional License, following an induction (on the job) period. They do not have a mandated role in initial licensure.

PENDING LEGISLATION:

Legislation would allow creation of:

+district-based programs

+BOCES (regional) programs

A bill (legislature) provides for Principal In Residence program - district will bear greater responsibility. It would permit a principal to be hired, then go through some mentoring and training (in conjunction with a college/univ.)

A former state board member, now State Senator, has a burr under his saddle about university-based programs - 2nd attempt to make administrator license optional.

There is also some feeling that those we produce aren't always that strong and the market should decide the matter. I would think that much of this is coming from the political right, though in honesty, many supts. will support any such measure to get them more candidates to choose from.

MAJOR

CONNECTICUT

Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes, but >

PENDING:

Plans for alternative routes are underway

No response

MINOR

FLORIDA

Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes & No

PENDING IMPLEMENTATION:

Florida just passed (2002) alternative pathway for candidates to take 4 ed. leadership courses, pass state exam, and then apply for an A.P. position.

Alternative agencies- School districts

A Task Force of professors are 'protesting'

MAJOR

 

LLINOIS

Board of Education

Yes

Yes

None

No known challenges

NO

 

INDIANA Professional

Standards Board

 

Yes

Yes, but >

PENDING:

There is a law for alternative pathways pending. At the moment, there is consideration of a plan to make universities only part of a package for licensing requirements, one that would include school district approval. There is talk a service center will do more.

There is consideration being given by the Standards Board to develop and approve alternative procedures--licensing approval by school districts after internship, etc.

We in the ed admin community in higher ed are working very hard to maintain solidarity with the principals and superintendents organizations, as well as with the school boards organization, so that we are united before the legislative if and when these ideas come up.

The Right wants alternative pathways; similar argument to that which was used to get charter schools; same people beating the drum.

MAJOR

KANSAS

State Board of Education

Yes

Yes, but >

DISCUSSION:

There is some talk about allowing non-university entities to provide certification training/courses.

Because of the shortage in qualified applicants for principalships, the state's new certification will be K-12 (no two levels as present) and there is some talk about allowing non-university entities to provide certification training/courses.

MINOR

KENTUCKY

Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB)

Yes

Yes, but >

PENDING:

Kentucky's EPSB asked IHE preparation programs to develop "alternative routes to school administrator certification" for select group of individuals (such as highly skilled educators, retired business leaders and military personnel). The alternative-certification development is in-progress.

No known challenges. The licensing agency requested that IHE's develop alternative routes.

NO

LOUISIANA

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Yes

Yes

DISCUSSION:

Governor appointed a "Blue Ribbon Commission" charged with recommending revisions to leadership certification and preparation, and overall. But the commission has rejected quick-fix answers to leadership supply issues and has acknowledged the need to broaden the preparation offered to aspiring administrators and teacher leaders.

Not clearly being "challenged," but revision has become a part of a strong political force here to revamp teacher education and promote teacher quality (including leadership). In essence, school leaders and leadership preparation has rode the coat-tails of efforts to pay attention to teacher preparation. It has a blame-game undertone, but this has not been the primary theme, yet.

MINOR

MARYLAND

Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes, but >

CURRENT:

Master's in 'another education' area and five additional specified courses, an internship, and three years successful teaching experience for Admin.I credential (Asst Principal or Supervisor)

No known challenges

MINOR

MICHIGAN

No state agency or requirement

No

Not applicable- no license required

Not applicable- no license required

+Governor and charter school groups against licensure

+Universities for licensure

MINOR

MINNESOTA
Dept. of Children, Families and Learning

Yes

No,

since 1997

CURRENT:

The alternative license is to document competencies and meet other requirements directly with the State.

PENDING:

Others might take on the responsibility if the new Board that oversees this has its way.

Mostly through the professional associations.

MAJOR

NEBRASKA

State Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

None

Not applicable

MINOR

NEVADA

State Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

None

Legislative discussions include adding required testing and separation of certificates (having a separate license for principal and supt.) Other

challenges are proprietary institutions' "abbreviated" degree programs and school district's leadership in the operation and teaching in these institutions.

MINOR

NEW JERSEY

State Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

None

No known challenges

MINOR

NEW MEXICO

State Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

None

No known challenges

MINOR

NEW YORK

State Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes, but >

CURRENT:

The 'alternative' route still requires university credit although it may be accumulated at numerous sites rather than a single program.

PENDING:

There is dialogue taking place throughout the state on proposed changes in admin. certification. I would describe that process as highly centralized with little information being shared or available to university people. Administrative reps have already received drafts; I don't believe that universities have been involved in that part of the process, certainly not in any systematic way. I would also say that the process has been designed to prevent universities from developing a common perspective or acting as an organized group.

In general, the validity and legitimacy of university preparation is being challenged by the professionals. Whether the Commission of Education will take that side is still undetermined.

The state education department has been holding hearings (town meetings) and asked for input on rethinking leadership preparation, particularly to have business schools provide leadership preparation,and to explore alternatives.

There is talk of allowing credit from in-service work offered by other providers, but nothing has materialized.

MINOR

OHIO

Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

CURRENT:

Temporary certification is granted if a school district requests it.

DISCUSSION:

Governor's Commission on Teaching Success is also looking at administrator issues.

No known challenges.

MAJOR TO MINOR

OREGON

Teacher Standard & Practices Commission

(TSPC)

Yes

Yes

None

No known challenges.

But discussions are occasionally being heard because of the shortage of administrators.

MINOR

PENNSYLVANIA

State Dept. of Education

Yes

Yes

None

No known challenges.

NO

RHODE ISLAND

Dept. of Education

Yes

No-

since

1999

CURRENT:

Alternative program 'affiliated' with colleges but is primarily an internship/mentorship program

Changes are afoot. Legislators are generally aware but the emphasis is still on teacher preparation.

Reader's Digest Grant, coupled with other realities are pushing for changes.

Major to minor

TEXAS

State Board for Educator

Certification

(SBEC)

Yes

No-

since 1995

CURRENT:

ALTERNATIVE PATH- Candidates already holding Master’s (not in ed. leadership)

ALTERNATIVE PROVIDERS- Any entity receiving approval from state board may provide admin. training.

+ Regional education service centers

+ Local school districts

+ Private agencies

(no hr./credit requiremt.)

Theoretically, candidates must have proficiency in 7 standards for certification, almost identical to ISLIC Standards.

Major challenge comes from business groups, professional associations (especially the secondary principals assn) and some superintendents who want fewer hurdles for "otherwise qualified" candidates to jump before being placed in a position. Mostly the challenges are coming from practicing school administrators who see the preparation programs as irrelevant. Also, some legislators believe that anyone can teach and that any manager can lead a school.

MAJOR

 

WASHINGTON

Board of Education

Yes

Yes, but >

PENDING:

The examination of alternative providers for teacher preparation is underway, and it is anticipated that alternative routes for administrator preparation will be discussed in the near future.

Most of the concerns are focused on teacher preparation at this point in time.

MINOR

WISCONSIN

Department of

Public Instruction

(DPI)

Yes

Yes, but >

CURRENT:

After initial licensure, the districts will have power over professional development plans that are precursors to professional and master level licenses, but IHE are supposed to be partnering with the LEAs. The DPI has mandated these professional development plans but has not set up the processes necessary for this to happen. It remains sketchy.

Also, the legislature is requiring a "test" of some kind for initial licensure in each area. This will be prohibitively expensive, so I believe they will back down.

MINOR

 

The following section of the paper centers on the political and legislative influence on leadership preparation programs nationally. Data collected regarding specific components that reflect ‘climate’ conditions related to leadership preparation programs as presented above in Table 1 are highlighted. These areas include 1) licensing requirements, 2) state licensing agencies, 3) college/ university program scope and responsibility, 4) alternative licensure pathways, 5) alternative ‘non-college/university’ providers of educational leadership preparation/training, 6) challenges to college/university-based programs, and 7) indicators of political and legislative climate.

 

Licensing Requirement

Nationally, there is overwhelming support, both politically and legislatively, for licensing educational administrators. Ninety-six percent (96%) of states reported report a license or credential requirement in order to serve as an educational leader. Only a single state, Michigan, reported there was no longer any state-mandated requirement for licensure. With absolutely no statewide licensing requirement, Michigan represents one extreme of the political and legislative debate on leadership preparation. It also demonstrates the extent to which key decision-makers will go in ‘solving’ educational leadership issues/problems in their state. Although there was no evidence of other states discussing or considering the elimination of a ‘state-issued’ license/credential, the Michigan case has raised concern. One respondent stated, "We are very wary of … following the lead of Michigan and eliminating administrative licenses." Knowing there is one state that has taken this controversial action, other states must be aware that they may also face a serious potential for licensure elimination.

 

Licensing Agency

For the purpose of this study, a licensing agency is the organization authorized by each state to issue licenses/credentials to educational leaders, and also accredits/sanctions educational leadership preparation programs. Departments of Education dominate the licensure process across the country. Over 68% of states reported their licensing agency as the State Department of Education (SDE). However, some states departed from the SDE as licensing agency, and instead cited alternative agencies. These included the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in California, the Professional Standards Board in Kentucky, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in Louisiana and the Department of Children, Families, and Learning in Minnesota. These boards or commissions are usually composed of individuals appointed by the governor and/or legislature. As political appointees, these boards are highly strategic and responsive to political and legislative interests. These make them a key player in the important process of educational leadership preparation.

College/University Program Scope and Responsibility

Historically, colleges and universities have been the sole provider of educational leadership preparation across the country for well over 5 decades. Certainly, colleges and universities have implemented a number of strategies in marketing to increase the effectiveness of their leadership preparation programs. These have included multiple site locations, district partners, and/or inter-agency collaborations. However, all of these ‘collaboratives’ still retain the college or university as ‘sole path’ to the license. The college/university maintains responsibility for recommending candidates and designs, implements and operates leadership preparation programs that are accredited by the state. A move away from ‘sole path by colleges and universities’ would include other agencies (non- colleges/universities) providing ‘state-recognized’ leadership preparation or considering such an alternative. A primary focus of this research was to ascertain the political and legislative climate surrounding leadership preparation responsibilities. To understand this issue, current changes in past practice or trends that might indicate a potential shift away from the status quo were identified.

The study uncovered several key trends related to the question of colleges and universities as sole providers. While 86% of states still retain colleges and universities as ‘sole paths’ to administrative licensure, the study revealed several potential shifts away from that practice. However, half of those same states (44%), indicated changes were in process or discussions were centering on moving away from this practice. The other half of those reporting (42%) were not aware of any current plans, discussions, or activities to remove that responsibility. This indicates an split in the country regarding shifting leadership preparation programs from the colleges and universities. A surprising 14% of the states reported that currently, colleges and universities are NOT sole providers of leadership preparation. These states were Minnesota, Rhode Island, Texas and Michigan. (Michigan has no state license, therefore no sole path.)

Alternative Paths

Data collected on alternative paths and/or alternative providers gives an additional perspective. The number and nature of alternatives indicate movement away from traditional past practice. The field of leadership preparation can certainly be considered politically and legislatively unsettled when 68% of the states reported alternatives were either currently in place, planned or being discussed. Only 32% of the states reported there were no current options or discussions for alternative paths or providers. Bell weather states such as Texas, Florida, New York and California all reported major shifts in leadership preparation. A full 44% of states around the country reported alternatives were pending or in discussion in their state.

For many years, some states have endorsed alternative paths for exceptional situations usually in combination with college/university preparation programs. Two examples of alternatives WITH college/university involvement include out-of-state administrators and internships. The first example includes the practice of issuing an emergency license to out-of-state applicants for leadership positions while the applicant completes any ‘gaps’ in state licensing requirements at a college/university preparation program. Another option, the internship, also maintains partnership with existing college/university programs. California, for example, currently offers an internship as an alternative path. This provides the opportunity for school districts to immediately place a candidate in a leadership position, while requiring them to enter and complete a state-recognized college/university preparation program at the same time. The two alternatives demonstrate options that have maintained a calm and balanced political and legislative climate partnering with existing leadership preparation programs based at colleges/universities.

Interestingly, the data document an increasing departure from college/university-based programs. There is an emerging trend toward implementing and planning toward alternatives that entirely bypass college/university-based programs. Several alternative pathways were documented in the data collected. Each of the ‘alternative types’ is listed below. Beginning with those alternatives most programmatically compatible with current college/university-based preparation programs, they progress to alternatives most in conflict with current goals and objectives of leadership preparation. Alternative paths (which bypass full college/university leadership preparation programs) for an administrative license included:

This year (2002) Florida approved an alternative path for educational leadership candidates to take four educational leadership courses plus passage of an exam to full assistant principal positions.

Minnesota indicated candidates could obtain a license by documenting competencies and meeting other requirements directly with the state.

This year (2002), California’s licensing agency endorsed the use of an exam in place of a leadership preparation program. This alternative is pending legislative approval.

The state of Texas currently approves licensing for candidates possessing a Master’s degree in fields other than educational leadership.

Also this year (2002), California’s licensing agency endorsed a Master’s degree in a ‘related field’ for licensing candidates. This alternative is also pending legislative approval.

A bill in the Colorado legislature would provide for Principal-In-Residence program. It would permit a principal to be hired, then ‘some’ mentoring and training would be provided in conjunction with a college/university.

Alabama reported an alternative path as petitioning for a candidate license to the State Superintendent and State Board of Education by a local superintendent or school board.

This year (2002), California’s licensing agency approved the elimination of a leadership license for some central office leadership positions. This alternative is pending more detailed implementation.

Michigan reported no state-mandated requirement for licensure. Certainly the Michigan case stands out. With absolutely no statewide licensing requirement, Michigan represents the furthest extreme of departed from college/university-based educational leadership preparation programs.

Data collected in this study revealed a continuum of paths leading to the administrative license. The most traditional path was that of completing a state- approved leadership preparation program at a college/university. However, the study revealed several alternative paths to the license, each increasingly distant from the original traditional path of full completion of a state-approved program at a college or university. The continuum of paths is represented in Figure A. The continuum lists the paths from most traditional to those most distant from original programmatic design and purpose.

 

Figure A

Continuum of Paths to Educational Leadership Position

 

MOST TRADITIONAL

Full leadership preparation program at college/university

Internship (on-the-job placement plus full program)

Out-of-state administrator (on-the-job plus program classes as necessary)

Master’s degree in ed. (not ed. adm.) + 5 program classes + internship

Master’s degree in a ‘related field’ (interpretation by state licensing agency)

Master’s degree, not in educational leadership

Four program courses + pass test

On-job-placement + some mentoring & training

Exam/test based on skills & behaviors

Competency evidence by candidate presented to state licensing agency

Direct petition to state licensing agency by local school supt./board

No license for some central/county office positions

No state license for educational leadership position

LEAST TRADITIONAL

 

Alternative Providers

Just as data on ‘alternative paths’ provided a snapshot of the political and legislative climate surrounding educational leadership preparation, ‘alternative providers’ also provides a measure of that climate. ‘Alternative providers’ is the descriptor used to describe other agencies (non college/university) authorized by the state to provide educational leadership education/training for the license. An increase in the number of alternative providers is an indicator of a shift away from past practice and stability of college/university based programs.

Half (50%) of the states responded alternative providers are currently in place or are being discussed. This is another indicator of the unsettled political and legislative climate surrounding leadership preparation. Alternative providers represent an option for licensing which bypasses traditional college and university based programs. As with alternative paths, the bell weather states also indicated strong emphasis toward alternative agencies. Texas, Florida, New York and California all reported major activities in the status and/or planning for alternative providers. This, again, represents a shift in past practice of leadership preparation. Data such as this, confirms the politically and legislatively charged climate surrounding leadership preparation.

The study uncovered three categories of ‘alternative providers’. These three provider categories were 1) school districts, 2) regional service agencies (county offices) and 3) for-profit & private agencies. California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Texas and Wisconsin all reported a ‘district provider alternative’ in place or in planning. Texas, California, Colorado, and Indiana specifically reported ‘regional agencies’ as an alternative provider option. Only Texas and California reported other providers such as for-profit and private agencies. Several states reported alternative providers were in place or in discussion, but did not elaborate on ‘which category’ of provider. States that reported this general information included Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Washington.

The number of states reporting implementation, planning or discussions surrounding ‘alternative providers’ for leadership preparation is key evidence of the current turbulent climate surrounding leadership preparation.

Table 2 highlights information on alternative providers by state and by provider category.

Table 2: Alternative Providers of Leadership Preparation

State

Districts

Regional Agencies

For-profits

& Private

Organ.

General

Non-Univer.

Providers

California

Pending

implementation

Pending implementation

Pending implementation

Pending

Implementation

Colorado

Pending legislation

Pending legislation

 

 

Florida

Pending implementation

 

 

 

Indiana

Under discussion

Under discussion

 

 

Kansas

 

 

 

Under discussion

Minnesota

 

 

 

Under discussion

New York

 

 

 

Under discussion

Rhode Island

 

 

 

‘Affiliated’ with colleges

Texas

Current

Current

Current

Current

Washington

 

 

 

Under discussion

Wisconsin

Current: Prof. Dev. Level (with colleges)

 

 

 

 

Source of Challenge to College/University Programs

The abundance of alternative paths and/or providers in leadership preparation isn’t accidental. There must exist specific challenges and challengers to college and university based programs, in order for alternatives to proliferate. Fifty-seven percent of the states reported challenges to college-based leadership preparation programs. Data collected for this study revealed challenges came from a wide variety of sources. These included legislators, private businesses, professional administrator associations, superintendents, personnel directors, regional agencies, state licensing agencies, former state board member turned legislator, governor, charter school groups, and the political "right."

The most active challenges came from four key groups: professional associations, superintendents, private business, and legislators. The political clout of each of these groups provides insight into the success of alternatives that have resulted from their challenges.

Political and Legislative Climate – Status Report

Finally, respondents from around the country were asked to assess the overall political and legislative climate impacting educational leadership preparation programs in their state. Based on events and activities in legislative and political arenas, respondents rated their state’s overall ‘climate’. Only four states (8%) reported no events or undercurrents of politics/legislation regarding leadership preparation programs- Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Fourteen other states (54%) reported minor events/activities. Two states (8%) indicated ‘major to minor’ events/activities in their state- Ohio and Rhode Island. Six states (23%) reported major events and activities- California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota and Texas. Chart 1 provides a national perspective of the current political and legislative climate surrounding educational leadership preparation programs.

Chart 1

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Theoretical Perspective

Organizations are ". . . alive and screaming political arenas that host a complex web of individual and group interests" (Bolman & Deal, 1997, p. 163). According to Bolman and Deal, political forces frequently emerge with tremendous influential power when organizations are confronted with scare resources. For example, these authors astutely observed that during the 1960's, America's public schools enjoyed a "golden age." But when the 1970's hit and declining enrollments forced school closures and even the selling of school properties, uncontrollable conflict developed. Similarly, in today's climate where public satisfaction with our public schools is low, where concerns with student safety issues are huge and where student academic performance lags, differences of opinion on how to solve the problems as well as on how the issues were created in the first place become exacerbated.

Bolman and Deal (1997) provide a political framework against which the current leadership preparation program crisis might be analyzed. This framework or "frame" includes the following five propositions:

When analyzed using the political frame's propositions, the current events in California and possibly more widely around the country are more easily understood. Enduring differences and scarce resources are creating multiple conflicts among various organizations. The tensions between districts who are responsible for developing training programs, professional organizations who want to become providers, and professors and instructors in higher education institutions who see their jobs being threatened are mounting as they are all functioning in a newly created competitive environment. Once fairly aligned, these organizations must now operate in isolation from one another as they jockey for positional power and financial resources.

Organizations are both arenas for internal politics and political agents with their own agendas, resources, and strategies. As arenas, they house contexts and provide a setting for the ongoing interplay of interests and agendas among different individual and groups. The nature of an arena and the rules it creates help determine what game will be played, who will be on the field, and what interests will be pursued. From this perspective, every significant organizational process is inherently political (Bolman & Deal, 1997, p. 210-211).

Despite the sobering reality that education politics are alive and well, political conflict can serve to renew an organization and to create positive outcomes. As Stacy (1992) aptly notes,

People do not provoke new insights when their discussions are characterized by orderly equilibrium, conformity, and dependence. Neither do they do so when their discussions enter the explosively unstable equilibrium of all-out conflict or complete avoidance of issues . . . People spark new ideas off each other when they argue and disagree - - - when they are conflicting, confused, and searching for new meaning - - - yet remain willing to discuss and listen to each other. (p. 120)

Fullan (1993) proposes as one of his eight change lessons that "Problems are our friends" (p. 25). He states that problems in any organization are inevitable. Clearly, organizations cannot grow and mature unless they challenge themselves to operate in diverse ways and to inquire and probe into the exact nature and causes of the problems that are so difficult to solve. "Problems are our friends because it is only through immersing ourselves in problems that we can come up with creative solutions" (p. 26).

Implications

The implications surrounding leadership preparation are enormous. First, our schools face the possibility of having leaders who are simply trained and not well educated. Although critics might maintain that institutions of higher education are just engaging in turf protection maneuverings, will the role of theory, academic grounding and educational research on which leadership preparation practices tend to be based be ignored if future leaders are educated and supported in isolated district environments or loosely regulated alternative provider settings? Can a test adequately insure the quality and effectiveness of a school leader let alone assess the depth of knowledge and understanding required to lead a school? The risks are heightened if leader preparation increasingly becomes more pragmatic, managerial, and skills based rather than providing experiences that promote a comprehensive analysis and active engagement in the study of what it truly means to be a leader.

Second, who should make the decisions regarding licensure? Will politicians, influenced by strong professional organizations with powerful lobbyists control the future direction of educational leadership programs? Should decision-making be a collaborative responsibility where all stakeholders’ voices are heard and where multiple perspectives and opinions are honored? If continued unchecked, administrator credentialing may be governed and directed solely by political forces and politicians whose knowledge, experience, and participation in school leadership preparation are limited or most likely non-existent.

Third, what message does the proposed legislation send to teachers, parents, students, and the community at large? At a time when educators are continually attacked and blamed for the alleged failure of schools, why would any school superintendent want to hire a candidate whose leadership skills, knowledge, and dispositions had not been practically demonstrated and only measured through a test? The legal liabilities associated with hiring someone with minimal preparation present multiple risks on various dimensions - school safety, curriculum, and language policy compliance issues to name just a few. Linda Darling Hammond has long been a proponent of professionalizing the teaching profession through rigorous accountability and training (Meek, 1988). To that end, she lobbied heavily and spearheaded the National Board Certification movement for teachers. In contrast, administrative licensure based on one test de-professionalizes the entire educational leadership profession. Will leadership preparation now undergo a "dumbing-down" process simply because states need a quick fix?

Finally, and probably most importantly, the issues surrounding equity are most troublesome. Where will candidates who elect to take an exam for administrator licensing typically find jobs? The areas of greatest need are in urban inner cities where strong leadership and an experienced knowledge base are crucial. Test takers will undoubtedly be able to find employment in the poorest districts. As such, the gap between leadership rich and leadership poor schools will become even wider. Students, parents, teachers and the communities where they serve deserve better.

Ultimately, who will be affected by having administrators and leaders whose professional leadership preparation may be in question? Clearly, it will be the children. With accountability and standards driving school reform agendas, students deserve to have administrators who are able to lead, inspire all to excellence and create educational environments conducive to learning. The attributes must be fostered and nurtured; simply being "trained" is not an acceptable substitute.

Recommendations

We propose that although programs thrive when continually challenged and are oftentimes strengthened when confronted with renewal, leadership preparation should neither be left to districts or loosely regulated settings, nor should institutions of higher education be exempt from program scrutiny or renewal. However, if the market economy is destined to become a reality and if political forces continue to drive administrator licensing, educational administration professors cannot bury themselves in their proverbial ivory towers.

Policy Recommendations:

Standards must be set that insure that all administrative candidates are well educated and exceptionally prepared. In some ways, the policy issues related to educational leadership standards are being addressed by the national Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards for administrators as well as the Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA), and in California the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (CPSEL). Most importantly, these standards must be operationalized so that they are understood by all. This includes candidates, licensing agencies and preparation programs alike. All agencies must have rigorous formative and summative evaluation systems in place to assess progress toward standards mastery. In addition, external evaluation and accrediting bodies must maintain the highest standards themselves to insure quality as they review all programs for excellence.

 

Program Recommendations:

How must university programs adapt to this new political environment? First, professors of educational administration must work more closely with school districts and forge new partnerships in order to understand the current pragmatic demands of school leadership more fully. Second, current university programs must become fluid, flexible and adaptable to respond to the needs in the field. This means ongoing evaluation and assessment to align administrator preparation courses of study with both theory and practice.

Political Recommendations:

Institutions of Higher Education and the professorate can no longer remain uninvolved in the political process. Professors’ work must be communicated to politicians and policymakers. The goal of such communication must be to increase the legislature’s understanding of the contributions of universities to the advanced preparation of school leaders.

Professors of educational administration generally are not political. Regardless, it is time to become aware and active. Conversations with each state’s education departments, and their congressional representatives who typically introduce legislation related to education must take place. Attendance at legislative hearings or at general meetings of their state licensing agencies will insure a presence and representation from those involved in leadership preparation programs.

If legislation is introduced, professors must be proactive and pen tightly constructed letters clearly delineating concerns but more importantly, providing alternative wording that could serve as model language for possible changes or modifications. Offering alternative solutions such as recommending that districts re-evaluate the nature of a site-leader's job itself and redefine and restructure a principal's responsibilities and the unmanageable and unrelenting expectations that accompany it is yet another strategy.

Visiting legislative offices and communicating with analysts, fellows, and assistants to the politicians also may have merit. This strategy is yet another mechanism to give professors voice.

Conclusions

Clearly, states across the country are experiencing significant political challenges. Therefore, the educational administration professorate must rethink and reinvent its roles. Professors must enter the political arena in spite of their work constraints and limited financial means. They must marshal their resources and develop a marketing plan to ensure that they become aggressive players in a competitive, political environment. They must design flexible credential programs that can be adapted to the changing market forces to meet current demands. They must become active, strong voices in the political process and make their voices known. They must not assume that leadership programs are untouchable or that universities are insulated from political forces. If educational administration professors want to know who is educating our future school leaders and continue to influence leadership preparation, they must establish a strong political as well as academic presence and become part of the process.

The work presented here is important. The message and call to action needs to be disseminated throughout the educational leadership preparation program professorate so that all will have an opportunity to lend their voices and expertise as we begin to change and reculture our profession.

 

References

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