FAU's College of Education Receives $5.6 Million Grant

The Wallace Foundation has selected Florida Atlantic University as one of seven universities to participate in a national $47-million initiative.

By brittany sullivan | 10/19/2016

The Wallace Foundation has selected Florida Atlantic University as one of seven universities to participate in a national $47-million initiative.

The University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI) is designed to develop models over the next four years to improve university school principal preparation programs and encourage higher-quality training statewide. An independent study will capture lessons from the participating universities and their partners to be shared with policymakers and practitioners across the country.

FAU, along with district partners and Florida Department of Education, will receive more than $2.3 million for the first year, with a total possible four-year budget of more than $5.6 million.

“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.”

Through this initiative, FAU will receive guidance on redesigning its programming from the University of Denver, which is nationally recognized for its high-quality program, and will partner with the three districts that hire most of its School Leader Program graduates: Broward County Public Schools, the School District of Palm Beach County and St. Lucie Public Schools.

Together, FAU and the school districts will create and refine three university-district partnership professional development programs that lead to state certification as assistant principals and principals. The idea is to both ensure that the programs are targeted to the needs of local schools and to develop and embed within them research-based professional learning components that lead to improved student learning and highly-effective schools.

FAU’s partnership with Broward County will grow from the existing principal preparation program, Principal Rapid Orientation and Preparation in Educational Leadership (PROPEL), which began in 2011. Two new partnerships designed to prepare educators to become qualified school leaders will be initiated with St. Lucie and Palm Beach school districts – Educational Leadership: Internship to Excellence (ELITE) in St. Lucie and Leadership for Excellence and Equity (EXEQ) in Palm Beach. Daniel Reyes-Guerra, Ph.D., an assistant professor in FAU’s College of Education, will lead the UPPI project and direct the programs.   

“FAU’s College of Education has been collaborating with our local school districts and the Florida Department of Education for some time on developing an innovative educational leadership program,” said Valerie J. Bristor, Ph.D., dean of FAU’s College of Education. “We appreciate the support of the Wallace Foundation in helping us redesign our educational leadership programs and are very excited about the opportunity to develop and implement high-quality courses of study and supportive organization conditions for assistant principals and principals to receive their pre-service learning.”

The Wallace Foundation also selected Albany State University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University (California), the University of Connecticut, Virginia State University and Western Kentucky University to be a part of this initiative.

The UPPI builds on 15 years of Wallace-supported research and experience about what makes for effective principals and their “pre-service” learning at universities. The initiative seeks to explore how university programs can improve their teaching and learning so it reflects the evidence on how best to prepare effective principals, and then to share these insights to benefit the broader field. 

RAND Corporation will conduct an independent evaluation of the initiative over four years, with a final report in year five. The study will assess how the participating universities go about trying to implement high-quality courses of study and to form strong partnerships with local, high-needs school districts. A series of public reports will share lessons and insights and describe whatever credible models emerge so that other universities, districts and states can adopt or adapt the initiative work.