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Research Questions

  1. To what extent and in what ways have university programs modified their principal preparation programs?
  2. How did the university-based leads — the individuals from each university leading the overall initiative at that site — manage the redesign process?
  3. To what extent and how did partners (districts, state accrediting agency, mentor programs) support the program change?
  4. What challenges were encountered in the program redesign process, and how were they mitigated?

School principals are charged with complex responsibilities that can include developing a school vision and culture, supporting teacher effectiveness, managing challenges and crises, communicating with the greater community, and more. However, recent research and surveys of school administrators indicate that principal preparation programs do not adequately prepare graduates to cope with school realities. In response to concerns about the state of initial principal preparation, The Wallace Foundation established the University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI), a four-year effort to redesign seven universities' principal preparation programs according to evidence-based principles and practices. Each university collaborates on the redesign with high-need school districts and a state partner, and is supported by a mentor program. This report focuses on the implementation of UPPI in its first year, from fall 2016 to fall 2017. The authors report on UPPI progress and identify cross-cutting themes in the UPPI implementation effort that can help other university principal preparation programs and their partners undertake their own principal preparation system improvement efforts.

Key Findings

  • UPPI programs began with some evidence-based features and contexts already in place.
  • UPPI partnerships used the first year to develop a vision for the new program and the redesign process. The teams at each site engaged in three primary re-envisioning activities: standards development, program assessment, and logic model development.
  • Each UPPI team focused on redesigning its curriculum and instruction.
  • UPPI leadership teams explored changes to clinical experiences and candidate recruitment and selection.
  • University-based leads — the individuals from each university leading the overall initiative at that site — and actively engaged partners drove the initiative in the first year.
  • UPPI prompted partner states and districts to consider issues and/or undertake activities they may not have otherwise.
  • UPPI leadership teams developed strategies to mitigate the most pressing challenges, such as turnover and capacity limitations.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Re-Envisioning the Program

  • Chapter Three

    Redesign of Program Features

  • Chapter Four

    Leadership of the Redesign Process

  • Chapter Five

    Changing the Context for School Leader Preparation

  • Chapter Six

    Key Insights

  • Appendix A

    Program and Partners Baseline Descriptions

  • Appendix B

    Policy Context

  • Appendix C

    Data Collection

This research was sponsored by The Wallace Foundation and conducted by RAND Education.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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