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Leadership Academy

The Leadership Academy addresses the recruitment and preparation of aspiring school leaders through a rigorous and competitive selection process.

This fifteen-month program prepares talented individuals to become outstanding new principals. The fellowship program combines graduate-level coursework with a full-time, four-day-per-week leadership residency in a public school to work with a practicing licensed principal. Fellows participate in their administrative internship experience Monday through Thursday and attend class on Fridays. The scope and sequence of courses in the Leadership Academy is continuous, time intensive, and observes both TILS and ISLLC standards.

Courses are taught in a module format by university faculty from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. A cornerstone of the Leadership Academy is the integration of school-based practitioners and interdisciplinary partners who function as co-instructors and form collaborative relationships with the faculty. Graduates of the Leadership Academy receive a master’s or education specialist degree and a beginning instructional leader license from the State of Tennessee.

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 master’s 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; and
  • The Capstone Project, which includes presentation of a final project to university faculty and members of the school system central office.

A special MOU was signed with the Knox County Schools and, as part of that agreement, the school district selected an initial class of twelve 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 fifteen-month principal-preparation experience. The first program cycle was designed with, and primarily for, the Knox County Schools. Blount County joined the cohort in 2014, and other interested school districts are invited to participate.

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. 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 39-hour program of coursework taught in a continuous fifteen-month program cycle. New cohorts will enter the program in June of each 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.

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.

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; and
  • teaming with practitioner partners for instruction.

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 fifteen-month program. Cognizant of university requirements for contact time, each course offered during the academic year meets for twelve 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 eighteen three-hour sessions during June and July during the first summer for three courses and twelve 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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