Exploratory Program for Teacher Leaders
A program designed to
attract and provide talented
teachers with valuable exploratory
administrative experiences with
veteran principals in order to
encourage these teachers to enroll
in preparation programs and to
ultimately become principals.
Links to Content:
Rhode Island Regional Collaborative (SORICO)
created in 1988 by the RI Legislature, is a regional service
agency working with 9 school districts in southern Rhode Island.
This includes 8 high schools, 11 middle schools and 33 elementary
schools. There are about 23,000 students, of which 25% receive
special education services. The nine districts include Block
Island, Chariho, East Greenwich, Exeter/West Greenwich, Jamestown,
Narragansett, North Kingstown, South Kingstown and Westerly.
The stated mission of SORICO
is “to develop and offer programs and services that
meet the needs of its member districts when such services and
programs can more effectively and economically be provided on
a collaborative basis.”
The project involved teacher leaders
from eight of the school districts in SORICO
and principal mentors.
Need and Intent:
To develop an aspiring principal
program aimed at attracting interested and highly successful
teacher leaders to encourage them to enroll in principal preparation/certification
programs and to make a commitment to becoming a principal within
five years. The project design created a triangulation through
which the teacher leader could be exposed to various leadership
styles by being assigned two principal mentors outside of their
school. This experience allowed the aspiring principals to evaluate
their own strengths and limitations as future school leaders.
“In over 40 years as an educator, I
found that the shortcoming in training principals is in instructional
leadership and not in how to properly manage schools. Traditional
principal preparation programs do a fairly good job in preparing
teachers to become managers with a base of knowledge about school
law, human resources, finance, labor relations, school community
relations, and other discrete areas. This instruction is more
concrete in nature than the development of a personal vision
and myriad of skills and knowledge that principals must have
as instructional leaders if they are to move their schools and
all their students to new levels of academic achievement. It
makes sense to find bright teachers who, as future principals,
can help teachers, even good teachers, become more successful
teachers. We have entered a new era in principal leadership
– no longer is school success measured solely by how smoothly
a school runs – it is now scrutinized very closely by
what students are learning and how well are they learning
what they need to know to be successful in the future. A
principal now has to delegate more of the operational aspects of
his/her role to assistants and to leadership teams. They cannot
be the sole instructional leader in their school, they must know
how to collaborate and share this leadership with, you guessed
it, teacher leaders. For these reasons, selecting teacher leaders
for a project such as ours make a lot of sense because these
people have already taken the first step toward the principalship.”
- William R. Holland, Ed.D, Project Director
Teacher leaders were matched with two principal mentors
who they observed, interacted with, and shadowed during and
after the school day. (The project provided release time and
covered the cost of substitutes for the teacher leaders.) As
Pre-Internships for Aspiring Principals, the teacher leaders
were not matched with their own principals but two other principals
from different school districts. It was explained to the teacher leaders
that the project design would follow a comparative model by
having them observe and interact with two different principal
mentors. They could then compare the leadership styles, strategies,
and achievements of these individuals with their current principal
or other principals they may have worked with in the past.
The selection of principal mentors was not restricted to SORICO
districts since the aim was to have the very best principal
mentors that could be found throughout the state. Principal
mentors were required to have had mentor training (in this case
they were trained through the
Partnership’s Mentor Training Institute and past success
as a mentor. Teacher leaders made formal agreements to become
principals within the next five years and there is an explicit
expectation that they will serve in one of the sponsoring districts.
1. July-September, 2005
- Selection of teacher leaders through nomination by SORICO
principals and superintendents.
2. October, 2005
- Final screening and selection of candidates.
- Determination of how many principal mentors are needed and
at what grade levels
3. November 2005
- Selection of principal-mentors by Project Director.
4. December 2005
- Workshop with teacher leaders and principal mentors.
- Assignments of teacher leaders with two principal mentors
- Explanation of journals to be developed by teacher mentors.
- Scheduling of first visitation.
5. January – April 2006
- Shadowing visits, individual follow-up meetings, attendance/observation
by teacher leaders of principal mentors in leadership situations.
Samples of leadership situations include: Observing a principal
conducting a faculty or School Improvement Team meeting; attending
a parent meeting where school achievement results are reviewed;
attending a leadership meeting conducted by the principal;
sitting in on a teacher observation and/or evaluation conference;
- Principal mentors provide Project Director via telephone
and/or e-mail with a summary of contacts with teacher leaders
on an ongoing basis.
6. End of April 2006 – Final Workshop
- State department of education and college/agency representatives
met with teacher leaders to discuss the steps to principal
- Teacher leaders also submitted their final journals and
shared perceptions of their experience with the Project Director
and their colleagues. They were asked to include their responses
to the following questions in their journal:
- What are 3 or 4 things you learned in this project that
you thought were of particular value?
- Has your attitude and interest about becoming a principal
now changed after participating in this project? If yes,
how? If no, why not?
- Did this experience change our own perceptions about
the type of principal you may be or want to be in the
- How could the project have been improved?
here to see the template for the teacher leader journal.
Tips for Implementation:
- It is important to remember that through this experience,
some participants will realize that they will be more fulfilled
by remaining classroom teachers and teacher leaders.
- Using two or more districts provides a higher level of principal
mentor quality and diversity.
- It is recommended to increase the number of days observing
a principal mentor to a minimum of two days for each mentor,
ideally, three days. This would insure better follow-up and
continuing contact and interaction. Of course, funding would
be necessary to cover these additional substitute days.
Case Study: Mike
is a first grade teacher at an elementary school in South Kingstown.
A veteran teacher with an outstanding reputation, he is valued
by parents, fellow teachers, and administrators. He has thought
about eventually becoming an elementary principal but has not
yet acted on it. He thought the teacher leader project might
provide him with some answers and elevate his personal motivation.
During the project, he was assigned to two elementary principal
mentors in Coventry and in Chariho. Both principals have outstanding
reputations and their high performing schools have received
commendations locally and from the state.
Mike sent the Project Director an e-mail after his first shadow
day: “I visited my first elementary school today,
spending the day with the principal. I was able to sit down
with her and discuss her role and responsibilities at great
length. What a wonderful climate she has established at the
school! I was able to tour the classrooms, as well as observe
her in varied settings. I really enjoyed my experience today,
and I will be sure to describe it at greater length in my journal
(NOTE: By the end of the project, 11 of the 15 teacher leaders
in the program had enrolled in certification course work or
had made applications to do so with the intention of becoming
principals as soon as possible. Of the remaining few, the majority
realized through the project that the commitment either of certification
and/or the principalship itself was not currently feasible and/or
professionally appropriate for them.)
Program Components and Materials:
for Teacher Leader Journal
Contact for More Information:
Name: Lizann Gibson
Job Title: Executive Director, SORICO
Role in Project: LEA contact
Phone: (401) 295-2888 x110
Address: 646 Camp Avenue, North Kingstown, RI 02852