College of Education Gets $3 Million to Prepare Principals for Large Urban School Districts

The University of Texas at Austin College of Education's Principalship Program has received a $3 million grant to develop urban secondary-level school leaders who will be trained to address the unique challenges of inner city school management.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the five-year grant, which allows for the creation of the University of Texas Collaborative Urban Leadership Project (UTCULP). The UTCULP will collaborate with four urban Texas school districts that are serving about 14 percent of all Texas students living in poverty.

"We've already begun an urban leadership development program with Austin Independent School District," says Dr. Michelle Young, UTCULP principal investigator and executive director for the University Council for Educational Administration, "and this grant lets us extend the work we've started in Austin as well as begin similar programs with the school districts of Houston, Dallas and Harlandale.

"This first year of the grant we'll be doing a needs assessment in Dallas Independent School District, developing a curriculum that specifically addresses that district's demands and selecting candidates in the Principalship Program who will complete this new program. Houston will be next and then Harlandale."

In addition to funding program planning and development, grant money also will be used for student scholarships and mentor stipends.

"Right now, principals in urban schools are staying in that job around three years before leaving," says Young. "Obviously, there's an urgent need to address this problem of retention. The UTCULP is going to give us a chance to go to the source and ask the school districts about the problems they face and get feedback regarding solutions.

"We'll examine the districts, create a curriculum and game plan tailored to their needs and then equip newly trained principals with information and skills that will help them thrive in an urban school district. We'll be able to offer ongoing evaluation to ensure that the program and our candidates are succeeding, and we will be training a district site coordinator and five district mentors in each of the school districts we're working with. We anticipate that this enhanced level of training and a strong mentoring effort will improve principal retention. "

Although the grant is for the evaluation of four Texas urban school districts, findings will be disseminated to other school leadership preparation programs around the state and nation, helping those programs refine their own curriculum and training.

The University of Texas at Austin's Principalship Program is part of the College of Education's highly ranked Department of Educational Administration.