Howard Bultinck is an associate professor and department chair in educational leadership and development, Northeastern Illinois University, a search consultant with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, Ltd. and a retired superintendent/principal for Sunset Ridge School District 29, Northfield, Illinois.
As an Illinois middle school principal for a quarter of a century, each and every day brought new excitement, new challenges and its own special rewards. Each day was a unique experience, very unlike the movie “Groundhog Day.”
One consistent, constant and self-evident truth, however, did come with each day. I knew my job was to find the best teachers, support them, encourage them, hopefully inspire them by my example, and work with them collaboratively to improve all aspects of students’ lives.
The September 2012 issue of the Kappan magazine reported the 44th annual Phi Delta Kappan Gallup Poll of the public’s attitudes toward public schools stating, “Americans support rigorous entrance requirements into college-based teacher preparation programs. At least three of four Americans believe that entrance requirements into teacher preparation programs should be as rigorous as or more selective than engineering, business, pre-law and pre-medicine.”
If a poll were taken regarding school administrator preparation programs, I’m quite confident the public would want the same or even more rigorous entrance requirements as well as rigorous state licensing expectations.
That is exactly what a new law in Illinois aims to accomplish. Educating future school administrators, and in particular principals, is a demanding job and just became more interesting and complicated with Public Act 096-0903, and the accompanying changes to the Illinois Administrative Code and Illinois School Code.
The new requirements for principal preparation programs, from admission through endorsement, replace the current decades-old Type 75 general administrative certificate with a new principal endorsement.
According to Section 21-7.1 of the Illinois School Code and 23 Illinois Administrative Code 25.337: “Candidates successfully completing the principal preparation program shall obtain a principal endorsement on an administrative certificate and are eligible to work as a principal, assistant principal, assistant or associate superintendent, a junior college dean.”
However, just recently the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) proposed an amendment that would delete “assistant or associate superintendent, a junior college dean” and replace it with “or in related or similar positions.” If approved the new language would read: “Candidates successfully completing a principal preparation program shall obtain a principal endorsement on a Professional Educator License and are eligible to work as a principal or an assistant principal or in related or similar positions.” Only time will tell what positions the endorsement will cover but clearly a significant difference with major implications exists in the proposed language.
Those admitted to a program before September 1, 2012, have until August 31, 2014, to obtain and register the Type 75 certificate. As of September 1, 2012, newly admitted principal preparation candidates across the state must meet the latest rigorous application requirements.
The new process
The application process has numerous never-before mandatory prerequisites. Under the new law, Type 73 school service personnel, counselors, social workers, psychologists and speech therapists, who never taught on a teaching license, are no longer eligible for admission to a principal preparation program and, as such, cannot obtain the new principal endorsement.
According to the “Illinois Principal Preparation Program Application for Approval,” a teacher wishing to enter a principal preparation program must:
• Hold a valid, current Illinois teaching certificate (e.g., early childhood, elementary, secondary, special K-12, or special preschool-age 21);
• Be selected through an in-person interview process with no fewer than two of the program’s full-time faculty members;
• Have received a passing score on the Illinois Test of Basic Skills (now the Test of Academic Proficiency [TAP]) if the candidate had not been required to take the test for receipt of his or her Illinois teaching certificate;
• Successfully complete an on-site written response to a scenario presented by the interviewers; and
• Discuss the contents of their portfolio with a professor(s) during the interview.
The contents of that portfolio must be scored on a rubric and contain the following evidence:
1. Support for all students achieving high standards of learning;
2. Accomplished classroom instruction, which shall include data providing evidence of two years of student growth and learning within the last five years, including how data was used to inform instruction;
3. Significant leadership roles in past positions;
4. Strong oral and written communication skills;
5. Analytic abilities needed to collect and analyze data for student learning and evidence of how the results from student assessment improve learning;
6. Demonstrated respect for family and community;
7. Strong interpersonal skills; and
8. Knowledge of curriculum and instructional practices.
One can easily see that the admission’s process has become a job in itself. To ease and facilitate the admissions process at Northeastern Illinois University, we decided to use one of our first graduate classes, “Introduction to Evaluation of Certified and Support Staff,” as a pre-admission course to assist students with all admission requirements while the student simultaneously earns credit for the first course in the program.
Although the candidate admissions process is complex, numerous other requirements also exist in the state’s 41-page scoring guide for university program approval. Other requirements for ISBE program approval include:
• Developing the new university program with school district partners documented with a partnership agreement — partners are required to work hand-in-hand to co-design, co-develop, co-implement and co-evaluate the new program.
• Ensuring the graduate school’s PreK-12 principal endorsement curriculum includes specific state standards and guidelines with numerous prescriptive components including the 2008 Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards as well as specific guidelines for student learning and school improvement including a process that determines how a student responds to scientific, research-based interventions that are designed to screen students who may be at risk of academic failure; monitors the effectiveness of instruction proposed for students identified as at- risk; and modifies instruction as needed to meet the needs of each student.
• Incorporating a sustained, continuous, structured and supervised internship that meets numerous state guidelines including a myriad of requirements for the on-site principal mentor, including, but not limited to, the principal having three years of successful experience as a building principal as evidenced by relevant data, including data supporting student evaluations or letters of recommendation from former supervisors.
Candidates must also pass the new two-day state exam before beginning their internship. Because of the new internship requirements, the course syllabus at Northeastern Illinois University is now 150 pages long with 35 new pages of rubrics for the principal to use to evaluate the intern candidate, which is in addition to the 16 pages already being used!
NEIU interns will now spend three consecutive semesters in their part- time, year-long internship and be required to pass with their principal mentor a short on-line internship preparatory course developed by the North Cook Intermediate Service Center (NCISC).
Partnerships, curriculum, and internship components now require PreK-12 attention as Illinois is one of the first states to actually include content and field experiences in the PreK setting so that principals are prepared to be leaders who can lead in PreK-12 school systems.
The good news is that current administrators holding a Type 75 General Administrative Certificate can continue to serve as before with the Type 75 or they can “convert” their certificate to the new principal endorsement under certain circumstances.
The law states: “Individuals who hold a valid and registered administrative certificate with a general administrative endorsement prior to July 1, 2014, and who have served for at least one full year during the five years prior in a position requiring a general administrative endorsement shall, upon request to the State Board of Education and through July 1, 2015, have their respective general administrative endorsement converted to a principal endorsement. All other individuals holding a valid and registered administrative certificate with a general administrative endorsement prior to July 1, 2014, shall have such general administrative endorsement converted to a principal endorsement upon request to the State Board of Education and by completing one of the following pathways: (1) Take and pass the new state principal assessment developed by the State Board of Education. (2) Through July 1, 2019, complete an Illinois Administrators’ Academy course designated by the State Superintendent of Education. (3) Complete a principal preparation program established and approved pursuant to this Section and applicable rules. Nothing in this amendatory Act of the 96th General Assembly shall prevent an individual having a general administrative endorsement from serving at any time in any position identified in paragraph (2) of subsection (e) of Section 21-7.1 of this Code.”
A letter from Lizanne DeStefano, on behalf of Miguel Del Valle, chair of the P-20 Council to Superintendents, best summed up the transformation:
“This legislation calls for providers of principal preparation programs to replace the old model of a broad Type 75 certification program required for anyone with the responsibility of evaluating teachers with redesigned principal preparation programs that are committed to careful selection of candidates aspiring to be principals or assistant principals, deep partnerships with school districts and regional offices of education, and intensive clinical experiences for these specific positions. These new, more focused programs will provide extended opportunities for leadership practice as well as rigorous assessment of on the job leadership performance.”
Many other requirements are too lengthy to mention in this article, but suffice it to say, Bob Dylan summed it up with his song, “The Times They Are a Changin’.”
We can only hope the new requirements do not discourage the best candidates from obtaining the new principal endorsement but actually encourage them to rise to the occasion.
The best of the best must step forward because, it is all about serving students and they deserve the best.
Illinois Public Act 096-0903 (Effective July 1, 2010)
Illinois Compiled Statutes 105 ILCS5 School Code, Section 21-7.1, 7.6, 2012
ISBE 23 Illinois Administrative Code 25 Subtitle A Subchapter b; Title 23: Education and Cultural Resources; Subtitle A: Education; Chapter 1: State Board of Education; Subchapter b: Personnel; Part 25; Certification.
ISBE 23 Illinois Administrative Code 30 Subtitle A Subchapter b; Title 23: Education and Cultural Resources; Subtitle A: Education; Chapter 1: State Board of Education; Subchapter b: Personnel; Part 30; Programs for the Preparation of Principals in Illinois.
ISBE: Illinois Principal Preparation Program Application: IL State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board and IL Principal Preparation Review Panel Scoring Guide: 2/6/2012 1:03PM- IL Principal Preparation Program Scoring Rubric.
ISBE: Handout Presented at the Illinois Principal Preparation Summit, June 17, 2011: Illinois Principal Preparation Program Application for Approval, retrieved October 10, 2012 from http:// illinoisschoolleader.org/documents/ PPPApplicationFINALmseelbach6-17-11.pdf
Lizanne DeStefano, on behalf of Miguel Del Valle, letter sent to superintendents, October 2010, http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CE0QFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fillinoisschoolleader.org%2Fdocuments%2FPA096-0903FAQ.pdf&ei=m5JUUNHkIYesywG8m4CwDw&usg=AFQjCNG6YSFhisX1Uk2w7YlaVHprJogq3Q
Phi Delta Kappan, “The 44th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward Public Schools,” September 2012