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Reflections on the evolution of educational leadership preparation programs in the United States and challenges ahead

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– The purpose of this legacy paper is to review leadership preparation over time in the United States and addresses challenges ahead. It is hoped that the US developments will be instructive to an international audience interested in strengthening the preparation of school leaders.


– The paper synthesizes research and commentary on leadership preparation programs in the US as a basis for identifying five challenges ahead.


– Meaningful change should be informed by the past but not bound by tradition. It is imperative to be open to different viewpoints, to take reasonable – and at times bold – risks, and to question deeply held values and assumptions. Broad recognition of the significant role school leaders play in facilitating student learning suggests that the political climate is right to effect meaningful reforms in leadership preparation in the US. Those involved in preparing school leaders are urged to address the challenges identified in this paper.

Research limitations/implications

– Encouraging work is underway, but many more people need to be involved in efforts to rigorously assess and improve leadership preparation.

Practical implications

– We do not have all the answers but cannot be paralyzed by what we do not know. We are ethically responsible to act on what we do know, such as incorporating the compelling research on learning theory into the leadership preparation curriculum.


– The traditional complacency in the educational leadership professoriate cannot continue if university preparation programs are to meet the needs of the next generation of school leaders. The time is short, and the stakes are high for all involved especially for PK-12 students.
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Keywords: Educational administration; Preparation of school leaders; School leadership

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 5, 2015

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