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Leadership Academy


The Leadership Academy prepares aspiring leaders. The program includes, but is not limited to

  • Partnering with local school districts to tap aspiring leaders
  • Coursework (leading to a masters or education specialist degree) taught by university professors in partnership with practicing professionals from surrounding school districts
  • Innovative scheduling, which allows for an immersed, extended internship experience
  • The Capstone Project, which includes presentation of a final project to university faculty and members of the school system central office

Partnership with local school districts

The University of Tennessee has established partnerships with 24 local school districts. Formalized through memorandums of understanding (MOU) signed by the dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as well as the superintendents/directors of participating schools, these MOU spell out the responsibilities of the university and the school districts.

A special MOU was signed with the Knox County Schools and, as part of that agreement the school district selected an initial class of 12 through a rigorous and comprehensive selection process. This pathway, which leads to administrative licensure, will be a full-time “cohort” program designed to provide a deep and intensive 15-month principal preparation experience. The first program cycle was designed with and primarily for the Knox County Schools, but other interested school districts may participate on a more limited basis.

The program combines graduate-level coursework (taught jointly by university faculty and practicing education professionals) with a full-time four day per week leadership residency in a public school to work with an outstanding mentor principal. Candidates selected for the program will be removed from the classroom to work full-time as principals-in-training. They are being paid their regular salary while working as an administrative intern. This commitment from the Knox County School System is an integral component for the success of the program.

To support universities and school districts able to fund such an internship, the Tennessee State Board of Education has implemented an aspiring leader’s license. This temporary principal’s license can be issued to graduate students in a leadership preparation program who are under the guidance and mentorship of a practicing licensed principal. The Knox County Schools and other participating school districts will provide the opportunities for the interns to hold these administrative positions in schools and will identify and support the sites where a proven, excellent instructional leader can provide supervision, support and mentorship to the candidates.


The Leadership Academy offers a 33-hour program of coursework taught in a continuous 15-month program cycle. New cohorts will enter the program in June of every year. Students participate in their administrative internship experience Monday through Thursday and attend class on Fridays.

Courses are taught in a module format by university faculty from the Colleges of Education, Health and Human Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Communication, Law, and Social Work.

A cornerstone of the principal preparation program is the integration of school-based practitioners who function as co-instructors into collaborative relationships with the faculty of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

These partners are district level administrators or building level principals who hold an expertise in the major content area of the course. The essential elements of this practitioner partnership are

  • The school-based practitioner is considered an “expert” in the content of the course that he/she co-teaches. Experiential knowledge is to be primarily considered when establishing someone as an “expert.”
  • The school-based practitioner will work with the university professor in ongoing syllabus development and revision. This involves, among other activities, a careful review of the course syllabus focusing especially on content taught, assignments required, and evaluations made of student performance.
  • The school-based practitioner functions in the role of a co-teacher, not a guest lecturer. The expectation is that this practitioner will co-teach three to four classes during a given semester. It is likely that this practitioner will also meet with the faculty member on a regular basis to plan classes and review syllabi, assignments, and other course-related materials.
  • The school-based practitioner will work on the development of meaningful course assignments that are based in real-world school contexts.

Pedagogy that consistently provides powerful learning experiences

Instructional strategies for the Leadership Academy will be founded on

  • the cohort model
  • collaborative learning
  • interdisciplinary teaching
  • problem based learning
  • integration of theory and practice
  • teaming with practitioner partners for instruction.

Well-structured and supervised internship experiences are connected to the curriculum

The four-day administrative internship is a key element in the Leadership Academy. Thus, coursework is built to ensure that graduate students in the program will be able to fully immerse in the life of the school, both during the day and in after school and night activities. School leaders are also often called upon to attend Saturday activities, such as athletic events, speech and debate tournaments, and parent/family activities.

In consideration of this, courses are offered only on Fridays throughout the 15-month program. Cognizant of university requirements for contact time, each course offered during the academic year meets for 12 three-hour sessions, rotating every three months to a new course. Two courses are offered every Friday.

Every other Friday, faculty meets with the Leadership Academy students for an additional hour in the Aspiring Leaders Seminar. Course content in this seminar is directed toward the final Capstone Project and includes the online Personal Learning Portfolio, an action research project to be completed by each graduate student, and preparation for the School Leader Licensure Assessment, a requirement for completion of the program.

Summer sessions include 18 three-hour sessions during June and July during the first summer for three courses and 12 four-hour sessions during June of the second summer for one course. Participants present their Capstone Projects and report on the findings from their action research and Personal Learning Portfolio at a culminating meeting during the second summer.

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Contact us

The University of Tennessee
Center for Educational Leadership

302 Bailey Education Complex
Knoxville, TN 37996
Phone: (865) 974-4555