The Wallace Foundation has selected Virginia State University (VSU) to participate in a national $47 million initiative to develop models over the next four years for improving university principal preparation programs and to examine state policy to see if it could be strengthened to encourage higher-quality training statewide.
Virginia State University, along with district partners and the Virginia Department of Education, will receive in the first year $2.41 million to take on this work.
“I would like to thank the Wallace Foundation for selecting Virginia State University as a partner to assist in increasing the number of principals who are well prepared to guide and lead schools in not only the Commonwealth of Virginia but also the nation” President of Virginia State University Makola M. Abdullah, Ph.D. said. “I also would like to especially thank our Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Programs Dr. Robert N. Corley III and his team of faculty members who will lead our efforts in improving university principal preparation programs.”
Virginia State University, one of seven universities selected by the foundation, will receive guidance on redesigning its programming from Gwinnett County Public Schools (GA) Quality-Plus Leader Academy known for high-quality training. In addition, Virginia State University will form a partnership with Henrico County Public Schools, Hopewell City Public Schools, and Sussex County Public Schools, which hire the program’s graduates. The idea is both to ensure that the training is revamped with local school needs in mind and to develop research-based training elements, such as providing candidates with rigorous internships in schools that require close cooperation with school districts.
“Effective and well-prepared principals are critical to improving outcomes for students, especially in schools serving children in poverty,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “My colleagues at the department and I look forward to supporting VSU and the participating school divisions in this opportunity to align preparation and practice with the needs of today’s students and schools.”
Virginia State University’s Department of Educational Leadership offers two programs of study in education administration and supervision at the master and doctoral levels. A large population of the administrators in Central Virginia are graduates of VSU’s principal preparation program.
“We know from research that school principals require excellent training with high-quality, practical experiences to become effective leaders—but most are simply not getting this,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “Because many school districts don’t have the capacity to train as many principals as they need or to train future principals at all, the best way to reach more aspiring school leaders is through the university programs that typically provide needed certification. We are confident that the selected universities want to raise the bar for their programs, work in partnership with their local school districts and serve as models for other universities.”
The Wallace Foundation was interested in finding university programs that serve districts with large numbers of disadvantaged students, whose schools could particularly benefit from effective school leadership. After a selection process that included site visits and assistance from experts in state policy and education, the foundation selected these six other universities: Albany State University (Georgia), Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, the University of Connecticut and Western Kentucky University.
“The more we talk with education leaders no matter at what level of the education system, from state to university to district, the more we hear it is the right time to conduct a university-focused initiative like this,” said Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at Wallace. “We are seeking to learn how these seven universities accomplish their program redesign as an important first step in improving how principals are prepared for the demanding job of leading school improvement across the country.”
Photo caption: Virginia State University President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah (far right) discusses the significance of the Wallace Foundation collaboration with Provost Dr. Donald E. Palm and the Department of Educational Leadership faculty members, who will lead the initiative.