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WIU Ed Leadership Department: Partner in $4.6 Million Grant to Study Principal Preparation

February 17, 2014

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL — Western Illinois University's Department of Educational Leadership is a program at one of three universities participating in a $4.64 million U.S. Department of Education School Leadership Grant prepared by The Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University (ISU).

According to Carol Webb, assistant professor in Western's educational leadership department (EDL), the five-year grant project is designed to study the effectiveness of the new principal preparation program internship and partnership development for preparing effective principals to work in high-needs schools. Quincy Public Schools and Western's EDL department have committed to the IL-PART (Illinois Partnerships Advancing Rigorous Training) project through 2019. Other partnerships that received grant funds include ISU and Bloomington Public Schools, as well as North Central College and the East Aurora District.

"These universities and high-need school districts have come together in formal partnerships aimed at improving the way principals are prepared and developed in Illinois," Webb noted.

Erika Hunt, senior policy analyst in ISU's Center for the Study of Education Policy and project director for the grant, said the focus of the project prepares candidates for building leadership by working a full semester in a high-needs school with a principal mentor through the university-district partnership.

"The grant will fund a full-time substitute teacher for the intern candidate's classroom and a district-based internship coordinator. Interns will have a pipeline of support, and this will prepare a pool of strong candidates for the region with a variety of experiences in diverse schools. The full-time internship has been designed to provide experience in the day-to-day work of a building principal, while meeting the rigorous standards required by Illinois State Board of Education in the principal redesign," she explained. "These experiences will be purposeful and geared toward helping prepare candidates for the many demands principals will face. It is believed this full-time experience will produce a higher level of candidate when compared to past preparation programs."

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that more than $13 million in grant funding has been awarded to 20 projects under the School Leadership Program (SLP), which supports the development, enhancement and expansion of innovative programs to recruit, train and mentor principals and assistant principals for high-need schools and districts. Grantees include school districts, institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations.

"There are no great schools without great principals and teachers," Duncan noted. "High-quality examples of leadership can help shape a school's culture and create an environment where students are excited to learn. These grants aim to support the development of these leaders, ultimately improving the effectiveness of educators and the academic achievement of students."

The five-year grants will help prepare individuals to meet state certification requirements to become principals or assistant principals. Projects will also provide professional development to current principals and assistant principals, serving more than 1,500 aspiring and current school leaders in 98 high-need school districts, including six rural areas, across 15 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

For more information about the IL-PART project WIU is involved in, contact Webb at (309) 762-9481 or via email at

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