Academic journal article Education

Living the "Tipping Point": Concurrent Teacher Leader and Principal Preparation

Academic journal article Education

Living the "Tipping Point": Concurrent Teacher Leader and Principal Preparation

Article excerpt

In a 2007 edition of the NCPEA Yearbook, Zigler and Allen allude to the principalship and its associated training as being at a "tipping point," a reference to Malcom Gladwell's (2000) book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference (Zigler & Allen, 2007). Gladwell elaborates on various ways that small changes, known as tipping points, cascade to a large impact. Zigler and Allen contend the current principal paradigm is too complex and that perhaps a shared leadership paradigm warrants consideration. They propose that this shared leadership may be a tipping point for future development in principal preparation programs. Wright State University's Department of Educational Leadership provides concurrent preparation of both principal and teacher leader candidates. Our teacher leadership program courses promote

"training in skills such as team building, problem solving, and critical thinking [that] enhance teachers' capacities in their current classroom functions in conjunction with aiding administrative duties ... in which teachers can assist school administrators. These include, but are not limited to, mentoring new staff, participating in collaborative decision-making, designing and developing new curricula, and conducting staff development offerings" (Adams & Hambright, 2005, p. 90).

We were pleased with our inclusion in the NCPEA Zigler and Allen article as a teacher leadership program exemplar (Zigler & Allen, 2007). To further expound on their tipping point theme, we want to describe past and present program improvement initiatives underscoring the tipping point premise.

The History: Three Tipping Points

Wright State University's Teacher Leader Program has supplied southwest Ohio schools with teacher leader graduates for over twenty-five years, and within that timeline, the program experienced several tipping points bringing about significant programmatic changes. The initial tipping point occurred when the program evolved from an initial off-campus professional development workshop provider model in the mid-1970s to a satellite graduate degree program delivery model in the late-1980s. The latter model intended to deliver requisite foundations and leadership coursework to aspiring principal certification-seeking candidates at various PK-12 satellite locations across our service area. In hindsight, the program moniker, "teacher leader," implied what Collay describes as "(t)he leader (principal) is the visionary and the followers (teachers) are unenlightened and dependent upon that vision (Collay, 2006, p. 137)." In other words, the principal led and the teachers followed.

A second tipping point promoted program changes occurring in the early- to mid-1990s that essentially divorced the Teacher Leader Program from the principal preparatory track. Internal program leadership determined that teachers sought independence from any administrative-oriented responsibilities and teacher leadership capacities were best served within the confines of individual classrooms. The ensuing teacher leader program's title and mission thus implied teacher leaders primarily led students. The programming decisions meant that a standalone teacher leader program emerged separately from an educational leadership master's program geared for individuals specifically seeking administrative credentialing. Teacher Leader Program graduates could still eventually attain administrative certificates, but their route became burdened with additional courses following their degree attainment that their counterparts in the Educational Leadership Program completed during their studies.

A recent critical juncture having a tripartite rationale prompted yet a third program tipping point. With the advent of program accreditation standards from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC), streamlining program tracks was imperative in light of increased accountability measuring and reporting. …

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