The Educational Leadership Development Academy (ELDA) was created in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego in 2000 in partnership with the San Diego Unified School District. ELDA was funded by a grant from the Eli Broad Foundation. Alan Bersin, then Superintendent of the San Diego district, and Paula Cordeiro, Dean of SOLES, had envisioned a program that would address the shortage of principals in the district by attracting exceptional teachers to the principalship. Skilled as teachers themselves, these administrators would work to improve teacher expertise and thereby raise student achievement.
ELDA’s five core learning outcomes and collaborative approach allow school districts to partner with the University of San Diego in the development of leaders who:
- Foster a decision-making community that acts from a belief system founded in social justice
- Thoughtfully analyze classroom instructional practice
- Articulate the elements of effective teaching and design adult learning systems that result in improved student achievement
- Implement data-driven accountability systems to ensure the achievement of each child
- Align operational functions and resources to support teaching and learning.
Initially, the Aspiring Principal Program provided a year-long apprenticeship and coursework leading to the California Preliminary Administrative Services Credential. Students were released from classroom teaching for the school year and apprenticed to an exemplary principal who coached the student and modeled effective instructional leadership practices and decision-making. The apprenticeship provided leaders-in-training with the opportunity to observe the principal in leadership activities, practice leading while role-playing with the principal and other staff, and eventually lead activities that supported improved teaching and learning. Coursework was linked directly to the daily work of a site instructional leader. Students engaged in problem-based learning activities, case studies, in-basket activities, role playing, and viewed videotapes to learn how highly skilled leaders work with teachers to monitor and improve student achievement.
Beginning with the 2005-06 school year, the Aspiring Principal Program became a two-year program and was renamed the Aspiring Leaders Program. Students are now assigned to an exemplary principal for a minimum of 40 days (20 days each year). The apprenticeship takes place during the student’s school vacations. As with the predecessor program, students in the Aspiring Leaders Program engage in experiential learning directly related to their apprenticeship, reflect on their practice, and work closely with the supervising principal and university supervisor to develop and improve leadership skills. Students who successfully complete their university coursework and apprenticeship are recommended by the University of San Diego for the Preliminary Administrative Services Credential.
Support for New Leaders
A second ELDA program known as The New Leaders Program began in 2002. This program resulted from a realization that newly appointed principals can benefit greatly from ongoing training and support as they earn the California Professional Administrative Services Credential. ELDA graduates and those who have earned the California Preliminary Administrative Services Credential at other universities are invited to apply. Admission is selective.
The New Leaders Program provides coursework and support for site leaders who are in their first or second year of school administration. Students take university coursework and receive professional mentoring and additional skill development necessary to support them in their position and to strengthen their role as an instructional leader. Each student is assigned a mentor who supports, guides, and counsels through the critical early years of administration. Mentors and their mentees meet regularly to discuss instructional and operational issues, and to improve and strengthen practice.
Coursework for both the Aspiring Leaders and the New Leaders programs is aligned with the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.
From 2000 to 2005, the Academy graduated 53 students in the Aspiring Leaders Program. Eighty-five percent of these ELDA graduates have since assumed administrative positions. Sixty-one students have successfully completed the New Leaders Program. The goal of having 60 percent of ELDA graduates receive a principal’s position within two years of graduation has been surpassed, fulfilling the ELDA promise as a high quality pipeline to address the principal shortage and to focus schools on teaching and learning. ELDA graduates’ leadership performance, as evaluated by their district supervisors, shows both strength and promise. District supervisors rated 93 percent of ELDA graduates as performing in the “good to excellent” range. Retention of quality leaders is also an ELDA goal. After five years, 88 percent of graduates who were appointed as administrators remain in their positions. Some evidence points to an increase in student achievement in schools led by ELDA graduates as further evidence of the program’s success: In 2005-06, thirty-eight schools in San Diego Unified were led by ELDA graduates of the Aspiring Leaders or New Leaders Program. Of those thirty-eight schools, thirty-one, or 81 percent, showed growth on the California State measure of academic achievement, the Academic Performance Index, some as much as 78 points. Schools led by ELDA graduates demonstrated improved achievement and generated considerable enthusiasm for the program.
In 2005, ELDA began a new program entitled Leaders Exploring Administrative Possibilities (LEAP). LEAP provides a select group of highly qualified and motivated teachers in San Diego County the opportunity to learn more about their personal leadership capacity and provides them initial leadership training and development as they explore a career in school leadership. LEAP students are invited to apply for the Aspiring Leaders Program.
As ELDA began its sixth year, the Aspiring Leaders and New Leaders programs have been extended to prospective candidates in publice and private charter schools throughout the county of San Diego. The driving force behind ELDA is the belief that the success of all children and effective educational reform depend on the ability of school districts, charter schools, and private schools to identify, develop, and train principals as instructional leaders.
The need for quality professional development for school leaders has prompted ELDA to begin offering Summer Institutes in 2006 and the Spotlight Speaker Series for principals, vice-principals, teacher leaders, charter school leaders and others. Today’s school leaders are confronting achievement and opportunity gaps, and in order to address these concerns, school leaders must meet them head-on. The ELDA Summer Institutes provide opportunities for the participants to meet, learn from, and confer with top educational leaders and researchers in the country, and to develop a plan for meeting the needs of the students they serve, for improving teacher practice, and accelerating student achievement. The ELDA Summer Institutes have offered unique four-day learning experiences for school leaders. The Spotlight Speaker Series has provided well-known speakers and researchers in the field of eductional leadership and development of professional learning communities. The goal of bothe the Spotlight Speaker Series and Summer Institutes is to offer professional development opportunities that will build staff capacity and ultimately accelerate student learning.
ELDA has become a nationally recognized school leadership training program. There has been extensive research on the program’s effectiveness and the positive contributions ELDA graduates have made in leading urban schools. In 2007 in a study for the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute conducted by Linda Darling-Hammond and others, ELDA was selected as one of the top eight principal preparation programs in the nation, and the only one in California.
ELDA Named Exemplary Leadership Development Program in 2007 Stanford Study: http://seli.stanford.edu/research/sls (click on Executive Summary for the full report)