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Report finds school leadership gaps

Colorado has a shortage of quality candidates for school leadership jobs and needs to improve principal training, according to a new report from the Donnell-Kay Foundation.

The report, “Meeting Colorado Demands for Excellent Leaders,” makes findings and recommendations based on responses to a survey of Colorado superintendents and charter school leaders.

The document’s three key findings are that Colorado has a shortage of quality candidates for school leadership positions, that the principal preparation system is low quality and that professional development and accountability can be “effective levers for change.”

The recommendations include:

The state should fund a better principal data tracking system, reduce entry barriers for non-traditional candidates, increase flexibility for training programs and develop other programs and incentives to improve the principal pipeline.

Schools and districts should increase efforts to build a corps of schools leaders, provide better support for principals who need it and work harder to create environments that attract quality leaders.

Citing what they see as the importance of strong leadership, the report’s writers said, “Until Colorado’s governor, lawmakers, state and local school board members, superintendents, community, and business leaders get serious about rethinking the role of the school principal, training candidates for success, and supporting talented people in that role, we will continue to have schools that languish and fail to serve our students well.”

According to the report, the state’s current requirements for principals are:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Completion of approved principal preparation program
  • Three or more years of full-time experience as licensed professional in a school
  • Passing score on the PLACE principal exam

The report also compiled an interesting set of principal statistics, culled from 2011 Colorado Department of Education data.

  • Average age 46
  • 55 percent female, 45 percent male
  • 85.5 percent white
  • 9.6 percent Hispanic
  • 2.7 percent black
  • Average teaching experience 9.6 years
  • Annual turnover rate 19 percent
  • Average time working as principal is 6 years

According to the data, Colorado has 12 principal preparation programs that have 859 people enrolled. In 2012 393 people completed such programs, up from 166 in 2011. There are 10 alternative preparation programs, with 18 people enrolled.

Fifty-six people responded to the survey, 31 percent of those were were solicited.

The foundation plans further papers on the issue, including a review of alternative models of school leaders.

Disclosure: The Donnell-Kay Foundation is a funder of Education News Colorado

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