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Illinois Garners Innovation Award for New School Principal Preparation Program; WIU Ed Leadership Dept. Contributes to Redesign Project

July 22, 2014

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL — The Education Commission of the States (ECS) recently recognized Illinois for its collaborative implementation of new school principal preparation and certification standards. Earlier this month, Illinois was honored with the 2014 Frank Newman Award for State Innovations for the years of work put toward designing and implementing the new standards, a project led by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE).

According to an IBHE July 1 press release, the IBHE and ISBE "successfully partnered with the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University to engage leaders from pre-K-12 schools, colleges and universities, the stage legislature, businesses and professional education organizations in a deliberate redesign strategy for preparing highly effective school principals through upgraded standards and professional development." Christopher Koch, state superintendent of education; Erika Hunt, senior policy analyst at the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University; James Applegate, IBHE executive director; and Harry Berman, IBHE's former executive director, accepted the award on behalf of Illinois.

Faculty in Western Illinois University's educational leadership (EDL) program are among the university-level educators significantly contributing to the ongoing research and work—known as the Illinois State Action for Education Leadership Project or IL-SAELP—that led to this award. The latest initiative in which WIU EDL faculty are involved is a $4.64 million U.S. Department of Education School Leadership Grant-funded project. This grant 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.

According to WIU EDL Assistant Professor Carol Webb, 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 these grant funds include ISU and Bloomington Public Schools, as well as North Central College and the East Aurora District. The focus of the project is to prepare candidates for building leadership by working a full semester in a high-needs school with a principal mentor through the university-district partnership.

"The research involved in our partnership with Quincy Public Schools is another piece of the evaluation part of the principal preparation redesign. We will be evaluating the difference between those who have a full semester of release time to participate in the internship part of his or her principal preparation program, compared to those in the traditional model, who are participating in an internship but who are also continuing to teach or fulfill his or her regular position's full-time responsibilities during the internship," Webb explained.

"The grant will fund a full-time substitute teacher for the intern candidate's classroom and a district-based internship coordinator," Hunt noted. "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. 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," she added.

The IL-SAELP began in August 2005, when the Commission on School Leader Preparation in Illinois Colleges and Universities was established by the IBHE in response to mounting concerns about the need to improve higher education programs that prepare school leaders. A total of 20 programs in Illinois, including Western's educational leadership department, were approved to participate in IL-SAELP.

WIU EDL Professor Dean Halverson has served on the School Leader Redesign Team since 2005. He was recently appointed to a newly commissioned Illinois School Leadership Advisory Council (ISLAC), and he and other WIU EDL faculty members were actively involved in the principal preparation design that was approved by ISBE in Fall 2012.

Other members of Western's EDL faculty, including Assistant Professor Rene Noppe and Assistant Professor Lora Wolff, have also been significantly involved in this latest consortium grant project (facilitated by ISU), which is crafted to support the implementation and evaluation of the program redesign, Webb noted.

"The first was a multi-year project funded by the McCormick Foundation in which consortium universities contributed to the design of integrating the training in principal preparation programs for leading programs in special education, English language learners and early childhood," Halverson said.

According to Webb, that work was presented to ISBE staff and university and college faculty from across the state in an April 2013 symposium, the "Redesign of the Principal Preparation Program." Halverson and Webb presented at the symposium and Western's process was included in the toolkit, "The Leadership to Integrate the Learning Continuum (LINC) Tool Kit: Redesigning principal preparation programs across four Illinois institutions (Illinois State University, Loyola University, Western Illinois University, and North Central College)," which is available for download at

Webb noted that Halverson also presented WIU's work for the LINC Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) Project at the May 2014 symposium for principal preparation program stakeholders, along with the other four consortium members. The five programs presented their work on models of continuous improvement processes for the redesigned preparation programs.

"Implementation challenges, particularly for the internship, were also presented along with potential models of data collection for determining program impact on principal preparation across the state," Webb added.

In the IBHE release, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn praised the work of the institutions and people working on IL-SAELP.

"This recognition is an honor for our state's educational leaders and a much deserved acknowledgement of their cooperative efforts to improve the quality of education for all Illinois children," Quinn said. "Education is a top priority in Illinois, and I congratulate the ISBE and IBHE for their outstanding best-in-the-nation efforts."

For more information about Western's involvement in IL-SAELP, contact Webb at (309) 762-9481 or via email at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Relations