Citation: Orozco, L. (2002). The Evolving Profession of School Leader and Leadership Preparation. Educational Leadership and Administration Journal, 14, 3-9.

CAPEA President's Message:
The Evolving Profession of School Leader and Leadership Preparation

by Linda C. Orozco, Ph.D.

The profession of school leadership has come a long way from its humble beginnings over 150 years ago when `principal teachers' focused on attendance, enrollment, school appearance and repairs. Since then, the profession has evolved rapidly through a series of duties and responsibilities reflecting the needs of the times. These have included leaders focused on improving poor teacher performance (1880's), managing finances, facilities and resources (1900's), increasing efficiency and supervision (1920's), and developing the profession in the midst of an increasingly bureaucratic educational system (1930's). The population growth and resulting challenges from the 1950's to the 1970's re-framed the job of school leaders to one focused on school law, equity, political unrest, and school improvement. This transitioned to a focus on school reform in the 1980's, and placed a major emphasis on standards and restructuring in the 1990's. (Hessel & Holloway, 2002).

Each evolutionary step in the school leadership continuum was the result of, and a response to, the needs, policies, and pressures from inside and outside education. We continue to face the same pressures today.

As the role of school leaders changes, so does the role and responsibilities of those that prepare school leaders. Leadership preparation programs around the country are finding themselves in a revolutionary era this new millennium. The core purpose and value of leadership preparation, as it has existed in the past, has been challenged on a national level. Uncertainty and change surround the role of leadership preparation. Two key foundational questions reflect this revolutionary perspective:

+ Who shall be eligible to lead schools?

+ Where should leaders be prepared?

These questions are not easily answered, for the debate on each is critically important, highly volatile, and politically charged. And answers reflect a wide spectrum of perspectives aimed at either short-term remedies or long-term solutions.

WHO shall be eligible to lead schools?

Turbulent times continue for educational leaders and educational leadership preparation programs. Several reports confirm what practicioners know- fewer and fewer educators are seeking to become or remain school leaders (Argetsinger, 2000; Ed Source, 2001; Educational Research Service, 1998). The profession of educational leadership has lost its attraction for an overwhelming number of interested teachers. Worse yet, fully prepared and licensed candidates have rejected the position. 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). In addition, an alarming number of practicing administrators are also leaving the profession to return to the classroom or enter business/industry.

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. 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).

As a result, a critical shortage of administrators for current vacancies exists. To solve the shortage policymakers, superintendents and legislators have sought short-term solutions. Instead of addressing the `cause' of the shortage, current solutions address only the shortage. Their solution is to lower standards to identify MORE individuals to take school leadership positions. To do this, current standards and leadership preparation practices have been abandoned. There is an emerging trend of `short-cut solutions' that entirely bypass comprehensive leadership preparation. Candidates for leadership positions can bypass comprehensive leadership preparation, and instead satisfy one of a host of alternative routes. A host of alternatives were documented in a recent national study (Korostoff & Orozco, 2002). Each of the alternative types (currently implemented and/or planned) is listed below.

Master's degree in another education area (not educational leadership), five ed. leadership courses, and an internship. (Maryland)

Four educational leadership courses plus pass test to become an assistant principal. (Florida)

Competency evidence by candidate presented to state licensing agency. (Minnesota)

Passage of an exam/test based on skills and behaviors. (California)

Possession of a Master's degree NOT in educational leadership. (Texas)

Possession of a Master's degree in a `related field'. (California)

On-job-placement plus some mentoring & training. (Colorado)

Direct petitions to state licensing agency by local school superintendent/board. (Alabama)

No license requirement for some central office leadership positions previously requiring an administrative license. (California)

No license requirement for educational leadership positions in the state. (Michigan)

Each of the above alternatives bypass comprehensive educational leadership preparation programs and signal a departure from viewing school leadership as a profession, and instead treat it as a skills-based occupation. Some of the alternatives above even draw from the ranks of non-educators. IF future school leaders are sought and selected from the ranks of past military and business leaders (as many have promoted), what does that say about the profession of teaching and learning? Can the larger message signaled by the refusal of qualified and licensed educational candidates to take leadership positions be so easily ignored? What does it mean for student learning? What will it do to education across the country? Is that what students need and deserve in this new millennium?

WHERE should leaders be prepared?

Leadership programs based at colleges and universities have traditionally held responsibility for preparing school leaders. That is changing. An increased number of `alternative providers' is an indicator of the shift away from the past practice and stability of college/university based programs.

In a study earlier this year, half (50%) of the states in the nation reported alternative providers were currently in place or were being considered. Alternative providers represent an option for licensing which bypasses traditional college and university based programs. Bell weather states indicated a strong emphasis toward alternative agencies. Texas, Florida, New York and California all reported major activities in the status and/or planning for alternative providers. The study also distinguished three categories of `alternative providers'. These 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 included other providers such as for-profit and private agencies (Korostoff & Orozco, 2002).

A shift away from colleges and universities in the preparation of school leaders opens the field to a variety of other `providers'. The potential list of agencies offering `leadership preparation' could range from school districts and regional agencies to commercial, for-profit agencies. This question of `where should leaders be prepared?' remains controversial and, in some cases, financially motivated. Based on current trends, a potpourri of options appears to be likely. However, as college-based programs know from experience, effective leaders will continue to come from high quality leadership preparation programs. And those candidates for leadership positions ill-prepared for the job will be placed, unfortunately, where they have historically been placed, with the poor and minority communities.

Challenges in the profession are before us. Will we be up to the challenge?

This 2002 issue of the journal focuses on the current status, impact and importance of leadership preparation programs. Two sections of the journal distinguish the contributions of our contributing authors.

Standards, Assessment and Accountability

Jensen's lead article highlights the results of a California state survey of graduates of administrative credential programs. Working in partnership with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialling (CCTC), Jensen's research provided base information to a statewide 2001 Task Force reviewing the process of administrative licensing in California. His study also provides data useful to current preparation programs. While Jensen affirms the difficulty in recruiting and retaining school leaders, his study details graduates assessment of preparation programs. His study demonstrates overall support for programs preparing aspiring candidates for the administrative license/credential (referred to as `Tier I' in California). His study acknowledges concern for Tier II (programs for new administrators). His article also details assessment of various competencies within the educational leadership knowledge base.

Continuing on the theme of competencies/standards, Schulte and Bruckner focus on NCATE/ELCC standards. Distinguishing between dimensions of analysis skills and interpersonal skills, the authors provide detailed research results as well as recommendations for program improvement. Their research analyzed the difference between graduates and their supervisors perceptions of the graduates abilities related to educational leadership program standards. This is a critical process for all programs which prepare school leaders. Administrator effectiveness in the field, is the most 'authentic' assessment of program effectiveness.

Collaborative inquiry related to the achievement of state and national standards is the focus of Lee's paper. She shares the use of collaborative inquiry to enhance student learning on standards-based areas, to deepen students' understanding about collaboration and enhance collaborative skills/capacities. Her descriptive analysis of classroom practice provides a roadmap for other faculty to use in implementing collaborative inquiry in other educational leadership courses/seminars.

`Simple and elegant' is the description used by Muth in his discussion of standards in education. In his article, he encourages educational administration faculty to embrace standards-based education in the preparation of school leaders. Standards, the author writes, holds promise for leadership preparation programs by improving the performance of school leaders, improving program recruitment, developing program and curricular coherence, focusing on learning, and creating opportunities for cross-program research. Well-designed standards-based leadership preparation programs create better leaders.

Teaching and Program Development, Diversity and Social Justice, Technology, Research, and Advocacy

At the heart of the work in leadership preparation is `teaching and learning'. Bogotch's contribution to the journal provides a lens into the emerging trends in teaching and learning. He maintains that the profession is caught in the middle of two critical forces. One is the external demand for structural reforms, and the other is internal debate over the knowledge base. In his article, he chronicles how the profession has been, and will continue to be, influenced by these two forces. His conclusions, from an analysis of teaching and learning in the profession over an 8-year period, provide a framework from which to view our work, its effectiveness, and its future.

Measuring effectiveness through administrator evaluation is the focus of Green's study. His research on administrator evaluation provides rich details on the process and the usefulness of various methods for school administrators. Methods for evaluating administrator effectiveness range from ratings by subordinates, peers and supervisors to using organizational (school) performance measures. Green's study sheds much needed light on a process designed to improve leaders' professional performance and encourage professional growth.

A growing trend in educational leadership programs is the use of cohorts. While the benefit of using cohorts includes increased organizational efficiency and increased student learning and development, little is known about the impact of cohorts on faculty. Specifically, how do cohorts impact faculty roles and responsibilities? Basom's paper addresses the impact of cohorts on the faculty that teach them. Factors such as mentoring, advising, off-campus classes, weekend teaching and team teaching are discussed in Basom's contribution to the journal.

Leadership effectiveness in special education is the focus of Davidson and Algozzine. Their research study assessed novice administrators' knowledge of appropriate special education practices. Utilizing a series of scenario-based questions, the researchers addressed seven provisions of special education including least restrictive environment, procedural safeguards, zero rejection and appropriate evaluation. Their findings discuss special education knowledge related to six administrator factors: position, teaching certification, age, ethnicity, gender, and school assignment. This article contributes to program enhancement by demonstrating the extension of program knowledge/teaching to professional practice.

Reflective practice and the potential it promises for enhancing craft knowledge is the focus of our final article by Ketelle. Her analysis into the merit of administrators writing their stories' involves studying five principals work-based narratives. She shares, “On an individual level narrative can help people understand what they are and where they are headed. On a cultural level, narrative serves to give cohesion to shared beliefs and values.” This study captures the imagination and could lead to new ways of administrator problem solving, reflecting deeply held beliefs and values, and cultivate ethical behavior.


Argetsinger, A. (2000, June 21). Vacancies in the principal's office. The Washington Post, p. A09.

Educational Research Service. (1998). Is there a shortage of qualified candidates for opening in the principalship? National Association of Elementary School Principals. Retrieved June 15, 2001 from the World Wide Web:

EdSource. (2001). Top administrators to lead California's schools. EdSource Report: p. 1-16.

Hessel, K. & Holloway, J. (2002). A framework for school leaders: Linking the ISLLC standards to practice. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Korostoff, M. & Orozco, L. (2002). Who will educate our candidates? The politicalization of educational leadership preparation programs. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Orozco, L. (2001). Saving the new endangered species: The role of higher education in the preparation and success of school leaders. Educational Leadership and Administration: Teaching and Program Development, 13, p. 3-8.