- Alabama school administrators who participated in the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy pilot say the training — which includes face-to-face sessions, online learning and a capstone project — improved their ability to serve students with the greatest needs, according to an evaluation conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board.
- “Academy completers said that it made them more aware of the needs of students; more aware of research and literature that could help their teachers; it gave them more instructional strategies to share with their teachers,” wrote Jon Schmidt-Davis, director of SREB’s Learning-Centered Leadership Program.
- After participating, the principals also reported providing more joint professional development for teachers from early childhood and the early grades, and said they were doing more to “make schools a hub for Pre-K-3 learning for families and communities.” They reported the least growth in providing personalized learning environments in those grades, and Schmidt-Davis recommends the academy add an on-site coaching visit to the program.
As schools increase efforts to meet 3rd grade reading targets, and build on the benefits of more children arriving to school with preschool experience, a variety of organizations providing professional development have responded with opportunities focusing specifically on increasing principals’ understanding of recommended early-childhood practices.
“The field-wide move toward focusing on birth through age 8 has prompted more intentional discussion of what is the ‘through-8’ side,” Kristie Kauerz, director of the National P-3 Center — formerly at the University of Washington and now at the University of Colorado, Denver — said in an interview. “We’re starting to see so many more programs crop up.”
For the 10-month P-3 Executive Leadership Certificate Program she's offered school and early learning leaders in Washington, she found a few elements to be important. First, she said, principals — not other building-level administrators — were required to be involved. Second, they had to participate with someone from the early-childhood field so the experience is “not just principals getting smarter about early learning, but developing relationships and trust” with those who focus on young children. Finally, she said principals are so busy that they need such programs to be “worth something.” Kauerz was able to work with the state so principals could earn 10 credit hours toward their recertification when they complete the program.