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Lehigh to help lead $3 million Philadelphia School Leadership Project

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $3,029,229 to a regional partnership of educational institutions, led by the School District of Philadelphia, to launch the Philadelphia School Leadership Program. Lehigh University, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and Temple University are also partners in the unique initiative.

Over the course of the next five years, the program will educate and train 60 upcoming school leaders in the city’s lowest achieving, urban public high schools. It is the first such educational leadership program designed specifically for the School District of Philadelphia, and one of the first of its kind in the nation.

The program has national implications and will be developed as a new, cost-effective, and sustainable model with the potential to be extended to similar, underperforming school districts across the country.

“Social change starts with education and begins in our schools. It's the only environment where we have the chance to engage students and create a sense of hope and opportunity at such an early age," says George White, director of the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders at Lehigh’s College of Education. “School leaders are in such a unique position to lead that effort and can help transform their schools and, to a greater extent, their communities.”

White and Margaret Barber, director of research for the center, will lead Lehigh's involvement in the grant.

The program targets potential leadership in the nearly 25 large public high schools in the school district that have already been identified for improvement or corrective action under No Child Left Behind, the federal education law.

The School District of Philadelphia is the lead applicant of the grant and will oversee all fiscal and program oversight. The effort is being spearheaded by the district’s Office of Leadership and Professional Development (OLPD).

Lehigh University’s Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders, in tandem with the NASSP, will develop educational training and customized graduate level curriculum for the program’s candidates, and ultimately arrange for Pennsylvania Principals’ certifications for successful participants. Temple University’s Urban Education Collaborative at the Center for Research on Human Development and Education will evaluate and assess the project.

"Grown-you-own" approach

The program will take a “grow-your-own” approach to build the next generation of leaders in the district’s lowest achieving high schools. The project will recruit exemplary teachers who have demonstrated a commitment to work—and an ability to succeed—in schools, and provide them with collaboratively designed and individually-tailored graduate-level coursework and internship experiences to prepare them for principal or assistant principal positions.

Participants who successfully complete the program and who have met the school district's selection requirements will be placed as a principal or assistant principal in a struggling high school in the school district. They will be mentored, receive coaching and participate in ongoing education programs during their first two years on the job.

With this grant, Lehigh’s Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders will continue its long-standing relationship with the School District of Philadelphia. For years, Lehigh has partnered with the school district in running the Philadelphia Aspiring Principal Academy.

The center, started two years ago, also just launched one of the nation’s first urban-principal-in-residence programs. Mike Rodriguez of Central Elementary School in Allentown, Pa., was awarded the position last week and will have the opportunity to work along side principals coming to Lehigh through the Philadelphia School Leadership Project.

--Tom Yencho


Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2008

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