ISU principal prep students outperform others on test

November 22, 2010

For the past eight years, students in Indiana State University's principal preparation program have outperformed the statewide average and median scores on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment.

The statewide passing score on this exam is 163 out of 200. On average, ISU students have outperformed test takers across the state by five points but this year the difference was seven points, the highest in eight years.
The statewide median for September 2009 to August 2010 was 173. The statewide average performance of the middle 50 percent of test takers was 166-179. However, graduates of the ISU program had a median score of 180 with an average performance for the middle 50 percent of test takers that was 176-183, said Joshua Powers, chair of the education leadership, administration and foundations department.

Participants in the principal preparation program take graduate studies of school administration and supervision. Prospective students must have two years of teaching experience before they can apply to the program, which requires 39 credit hours and an internship with a goal of receiving a K-12 principal's license, after passing the SLLA.

There is a wide age-range of students in ISU's program, it is always a unique time in the life of a teacher when they decide they want to become a principal, said Steve Gruenert, associate professor of education.

"There are a variety of reasons why a teacher decides to look into the world of administration. Sometimes it is early, sometimes mid-career, sometimes in the twilight," he said. "Regardless, we have found the main reasons are results of either being in the presence of great leaders or not-so-great leaders thinking, ‘I could do this job.'"

Terry McDaniel, assistant professor of educational leadership, administration and foundations, teaches the first course in the program, which is the introduction to leadership and discusses the roles and responsibilities involved with being an administrator or principal.

"I try to use the first class to help each student determine if they are really dedicated to being a building-level administrator," McDaniel said. "The thrilling part of teaching these individuals is that they are always so dedicated and so passionate about education. They desire to be leaders and often have demonstrated this as teachers."

Students typically take the SLLA during the last 12 hours of the program, which is the internship part of the program. Students pay $450 to take the four-hour test that includes multiple choice and short answer questions. The short answer portion is based on the six leadership standards developed by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium.

"I think [scoring well] gives [students] confidence more than anything...to have a high number is a sense of pride also," Gruenert said.

Gruenert and McDaniel think that ISU has one of the best programs in the state in terms of the students involved and the preparation they receive.

"Our program is designed to meet the standards for principals and to connect research with application in the field," McDaniel said. "Often students will come back to us and talk about students they have met who are in other programs and talk about how much better prepared they are compared to the individuals they have met."

This preparation is vital when these students graduate from the program and begin to look for principal jobs that require licensure.

In the past about 80 percent of students would look for jobs as administrators but this number has dropped to about 50 percent, according to Gruenert.

"Economy may have made people afraid to uproot and start from zero someplace else," he said. "Tenured teachers are secure. To become a principal means you forego your tenure so some just go back to teaching but I'd like to think the program has at least made them a better teacher."

Contact: Steve Gruenert, associate professor of education, at 812-237-2906 or steve.gruenert@indstate.edu
Writer: Alexa Larkin, Indiana State University, media relations intern, at 812-237-3773.