A Big PLUS for Developing Urban School Principals

Master’s program involves intensive field work, mentoring

The School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is partnering with KC PLUS (Pathway to Leadership in Urban Schools) on an intensive master’s degree program designed to develop highly capable principals and administrators to serve in urban schools.

Under the program, teachers with high leadership potential leave the classroom and move into a guided, supervised administrative role in an urban school. After an intensive summer classroom training program, Kansas City PLUS residents spend a year in a local district or charter school developing a team of teachers, under the guidance of an expert leadership coach. While Missouri regulations require 160 hours of supervised field work to earn a principal’s certification, participants in KC PLUS gain literally thousands of hours while earning a master’s degree as well as certification.

At a June 14 launch event previewing the new program, officials from the School of Education and KC PLUS described how the KC PLUS approach differs from traditional master’s programs.

“This represents a transformation in our preparation of principals to serve our community,” said Justin Perry, dean of the School of Education. “Every child deserves not just great teachers but great principals. And great teachers also deserve great principals.”

Participants make a commitment to apply the experience and skills they gain from the program for a minimum of three years in a school that serves students in Kansas City’s urban core.

Three KC PLUS program participants spoke at the event.

“We really started to look at impact – how are we impacting students” as a result of the program, said Karren Colbert, principal at the Academy for Integrated Arts. “Someone was always pushing me to focus on student achievement, helping me navigate from theory to practice.”

Kirsten Brown, principal at Crossroads Preparatory Academy, grew up in Kansas City and has a UMKC undergraduate degree.

“I get coaching every week,” Brown said. “We look at, what is the data telling us? How can we use data to push teacher practice forward?”

Bryan Hart, a KC PLUS resident vice principal at Kansas City’s East High school, told the newly accepted program students what to expect.

“After a month of professional development, you’ll be able to step right into a school and help improve instruction from Week One.”

The KC PLUS program is highly competitive; it is anticipated that about 25 percent of applicants will be admitted to the program each year. KC PLUS is a two-year principal certification program for talented educators who want to become transformational school leaders. It is funded by the Kauffman foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, Hallmark Foundation, Walton Foundation and the Sherman Family Foundation.

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