Licensure and Certification
Most states base licensure on the number of credit hours completed in an approved educational administration program and require that principal candidates have teacher certification and classroom experience. Variation exists across states in several areas regarding administrator licensure requirements, including:
• Number of years the license is valid;
• Years of experience as a licensed educator;
• Hours of professional development necessary for renewal;
• Endorsement areas such as a K-12 or specific endorsement for elementary or secondary
• Passage of a state examination.
Historically, licensure requirements have focused on “inputs”—the number of courses taken, previous experience as a teacher, etc.— rather than on performance as a school leader. States are attempting to move toward a performance-based system by creating standards and requiring administrators to demonstrate knowledge and skills in order to be licensed or for license renewal. Several states are implementing a tiered or advanced licensure structure under which administrator candidates are granted a provisional license upon completion of an approved preparation program, with permanent licensure granted after completion of an induction or mentoring program. The time allotted to complete the clinical or in-school portion of the requirement varies from one year to five years. Higher levels of certification, similar to that of a “master principal,” are based on a combination of professional development and performance as an administrator.
Other states are considering alternative ways to certify principals and administrators whose backgrounds are in areas other than education—most commonly those holding master’s degrees in management and public policy and demonstrated leadership experience. Although this practice is common for recruiting and training teachers—45 states have such alternative programs—it is far less common for principals because virtually all states require aspiring principals to be experienced, fully certified teachers. In regard to superintendents, many states allow districts to apply for a waiver of certification requirements for superintendents who have skills that fill a need in a specific district but who lack traditional administration certification.
The Interstate School Leaders’ Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) created six standards to give some direction to state policymakers as they address the licensure requirements of school administrators. To date, 40 states have adopted the ISLLC standards. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) also developed similar standards, and the two organizations are working together to create national standards for administrators.
• Illinois is proposing legislation to raise expectations of principals through advancing certification in the state. The goal is to advance traditional administrator licensure by changing the requirements to include a provisional certificate following completion of a university-based graduate program and a 2 year period of induction. They also propose a statewide program that pairs all new principals with a mentor, a mandatory evaluation that distinguishes aspiring, novice and experienced principals in the field, and a Master Principal program for seasoned professionals.
• Oregon has a mandatory tiered certification program that is directly tied to ISLLC standards as well as the state's cultural competency standards. Accordingly, Oregon's certification system is designed to prepare its principals with the competencies needed to be strong instructional leaders capable of dealing with a diverse student population. Principals advance their level of certification by adhering to state developed objectives for the initial and continuing licensure
• Washington offers a state-funded Leadership Intern Program that provides funds directly to the public school district to cover the costs of the principal candidate who participates. This program allows candidates 45 days of release time from school responsibilities to participate in the intern program and covers the costs incurred for a substitute to perform school responsibilities.
• Mississippi offers incentives to teachers identified as promising candidates by the state board who are interested in becoming school leaders through The Mississippi School Administrator Sabbatical Program. This program offers full salary and benefits for one year to teachers who enroll in education leadership programs.
• Florida dropped the state requirement for licensing principals. This legislation amends the powers and duties of the district school board with regard to designating positions to be filled; prescribing qualifications for those positions; and providing for the appointment, compensation, promotion, suspension and dismissal of employees. The section provides that the district school board may, consistent with adopted district school board policy relating to alternative certification for school principals, appoint people to the position of school principal who do not hold educator certification.
• New Jersey has two stages of certification for all administrative certificates except supervisor. Standard certificates for supervisors, school business administrators, principals and school administrators are valid for life. The state has passed legislation that allows school districts to hire school leaders from outside the education field, provided they hold a master’s degree in management or leadership. An individual hired by a school district in a leadership capacity is granted a provisional license for one year. He or she then must participate in the principal residency program under the direction of a state-approved mentor.
Key Questions for Legislators
1. What are the current requirements for administrator certification or licensure in your state? Are there different licensing requirements for K-12, elementary or secondary education? Is there a need for different licensing requirements?
2. Are there different tiers of licensure for administrators (such as provisional or entry-level, after completion of a certain number of years, and master administrator)? If so, what are the requirements for each level?
3. What are the requirements for renewal in your state?
4. Are your state standards performance-based?
5. Does your state have alternative routes to administrator licensure?
• For teachers with master’s degrees in areas other than educational administration?
• For people with management experience and master’s degrees in business or public policy?
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