About the Texas Tech University Engagement Scholarship College of Education Principal Fellow Partnerships
Local community schools have historically struggled to effectively serve the changing demographic including Hispanic and Black student populations. To address some of the issues voiced by local school districts, the Texas Tech Principal Fellows Program began with a partnership between Lubbock ISD and Educational Leadership Faculty collaborating to impact the pipeline of education. Together Lubbock ISD leaders and TTU Faculty visited and examined nationally recognized programs with a plan to replicate in the context of both Lubbock and the Texas school systems. The partnership included joint selection of three highly effective teachers who began the 15 month job-embedded journey to learn on the job from mentor principals, TTU faculty coaches, and grow teachers and students in real time using just in time curriculum. The faculty developed the job-embedded curriculum for principal training with explicit competency-based feedback and shaping through instructional coaching and use of both face-to-face presence and video capture in order to innovatively train principals to lead schools serving high-need students.
School principals are only second to teachers on the direct impact they have in our
children's education. The job-embedded pilot was refined and partnered with The National
Institute for Excellence in Teaching to further develop the TTU Leadership Instruction
for Teachers (LIFT) program. The partnership and pilot data successfully received
a seven million dollar Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Federal grant
from the U.S. Department of Education.
The innovative program will successfully reach almost 7,000 teachers and leaders in 11 school districts, as well as produce over 40 Principal Fellows at Texas Tech University (TTU) through a partnership between a non-profit organization and a large university– increasing the number of effective principals in high-need schools across Texas and Louisiana. The LIFT Program is driven by an evidence-based, comprehensive model for leadership, principal preparation, and school effectiveness.
Relationship and Reciprocity between TTU COE and the Community
The Educational Leadership Program has worked diligently with local, state, and state-border districts to build partnerships to improve student outcomes. COE faculty have joined with selected districts to identify top quality teachers that are ideal principal candidates (PC) for our innovative graduate Principal Fellow Program. Our fellows are currently serving in leadership roles in school districts within their communities. They are leading the learning of others by applying the theoretical frameworks and skills they learned in our program to lead school improvement efforts.
Our partnerships are built on trust and collaboration. Partnering districts have entrusted our faculty to take their best teachers through our intensive 15-month graduate program and deliver
quality educational leaders. The partnerships have created the opportunity for faculty to collaborate with campus and district leaders to build a unified effort to improve education across the nation. Our students receive a job-embedded curriculum delivered on-site by our faculty while concurrently serving as principal interns within their districts. These partnerships have opened doors jointly to advance the academic achievement of our district partners through the intentional work of our fellows evidenced by improved student outcomes.
The collaboration between faculty and districts include (1) vetting of the best PCs; (2) organization of the curriculum around the public school calendar; (3) use of authentic public school data; (4) identification of the best principal mentors; (5) identification of new school placement for PCs; and (6) implementation of our job-embedded curriculum to meet the needs of students as well as the needs of the campus. It is the goal of the program to provide our students with the best curriculum and quality experience in educational leadership by partnering with districts and helping one district at a time improve student outcomes for the public education entities they serve.
Impacts on the Community
The impact on partners includes creation of rigorous criteria for principal preparation candidates, focus on data-driven decision-making for development of human capital, continuous refinement of graduate coursework, and data sharing.
As equal partners, school districts collaborate with faculty for the selection of fellows, the assignment of mentor principals, and onsite job embedded learning. Through this work, best practices for a rigorous principal preparation program candidate selection process was established that includes district and university screening of applicants. Both levels include the demonstration of instructional and content knowledge coupled with campus leadership experience.
Fellows are supported by district and university mentors collaboratively selected by faculty and district personnel. Principal mentors are required to demonstrate ability for mentoring. The impact of this learning extended to district partners for selection of principals' demonstrating a capacity for growing teachers, improving student outcomes, and nurturing leadership talent.
Equity Audits are conducted on assigned schools as a basis for coursework. Fellows collaborate with mentor principals using data from the audit to select five growth areas. Fellows coach two teachers in need of growth, work with a Professional Learning Community (PLC), and select two at-risk students for advocacy and mentoring. Knowledge sharing impacts both university and campus learning communities through targeted coaching strategies and quarterly monitoring of goals. This learning is mutually beneficial as district partners adapt processes and best practices for campus-wide use and faculty aligned curriculum to ensure support and sustainability of state certification standards.
The knowledge gained has been shared at the local, state, and national levels. Fellows present data on teacher and student growth to district and campus leaders. Faculty has also shared program specifics with the Texas Education Agency and presented at The American Educational Research Association, the University Council for Educational Administration, and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.
Lessons Learned and Best Practices
A united and harmonious relationship existed between the university and the community partners; however, there were a few challenges along the way. As an intentional strategy of the program, the placement of the interns on a campus they had not served previously was a non – negotiable. There were a few times the mentor principal was re-assigned prior to the school year, causing the principal fellow to get re-assigned to another new campus. This challenge was frustrating for the principal candidates because they were again establishing new relationships and over-hauling program assignments that were already submitted.
Despite some frustration in some assignments, the Principal Fellows Program was an intensive, job-embedded residency program. The fellows were well prepared and equipped to take a lead role as an assistant principal the following school year. Another challenge that developed in the partnerships was the traditional promotions based on loyalty, which created a relationship barrier between current standing assistant principals and other teacher leaders hoping to attain the next assistant principal position in the district.
To address these challenges during the next vetting season for principal fellow candidates, the university faculty specifically addressed these concerns to district partners. This interaction between district leaders and the university faculty occurred on-site at the school district. In addition to the initial meeting with district leaders, the university faculty presented an information session to potential principal candidates and principal mentors from each school district.
Overall, the strong collaboration between the university and the districts provided the highest quality of instruction for a principal candidate to experience. The challenges addressed were conquered with fidelity and the partnerships continued to remain effective while the program continued to mold and shape the Principal Fellow exponentially.
Future Plans for the Partnership
Lubbock ISD partnered with the Educational Leadership Program to pilot a residency principal preparation project four years ago. Due to the success of the pilot, we wrote, submitted and were awarded a seven million dollar Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to deliver the model to multiple school districts in Texas and Louisiana. Throughout the three years of the grant and the one year extension, we
have had several districts participate and then discontinue due to financial resources. The only exceptions have been Lubbock and Grand Prairie ISDs. The districts have committed to participating in growing their future campus leaders using our principal preparation model.
For the next and last cohort of the federal grant, we have added Seminole, Cooper, and Frenship ISDs who heard of the successes of the project and were excited to participate. Through the Principal Fellows Project we have been able to meet with district and school leaders concerning the necessary skills leaders need to lead schools with current educational issues. Within a collaborative space, we have listened and explored how we at TTU, can assist in educating new leaders who can work to transform struggling schools.
Through this project, our team has had the opportunity to continue to elevate the reputation of TTU, the COE, and the Educational Leadership Program at the state and national levels through our preparation of future principals who are able to successfully exhibit the required competencies. The Texas Education Agency awarded Title II state grants in spring 2018 to school districts who aspire to grow their own leaders. Within in this new grant award we welcomed our newest partner, O'Donnell ISD and continued the collaboration with Grand Prairie ISD in assisting their efforts for growing future leaders. We are excited about our successes and elevated reputation as we continue to work and collaborate with school and district partners who seek to build aspiring leaders who can demonstrate the necessary competencies needed to improve outcomes for all students.