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The Aspiring Leaders Program is a rigorous competency and experiential-based program designed to prepare principal leaders for the challenging environment of complex schools. Our five-year development program for aspiring school leaders is offered in partnership with SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development. This unique partnership provides the traditional coursework associated with a master's degree, a robust in-school residency that focuses on leadership in action, and continuous, in-depth training and coaching.

The initial two years include a rigorous focus on instructional and organizational leadership and the development of effective teachers, leading to a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership with Urban School Specialization. In year two, the Residency Year, extensive assessment, feedback, and coaching is provided, along with continued support in the subsequent three years as our Aspiring Leaders assume leadership roles at their schools and begin to use practices and ideas they have learned throughout the course of the program. Our graduates are prepared to make an immediate impact toward narrowing the achievement gap by leading change in their schools, with a focus on building a culture of high performance for both the students and adults.

Key components

  • An experiential process for admissions to ensure that participants exhibit values needed for this challenging work
  • Four-week summer intensive
  • A year-long facilitated and heavily assessed residency, where the candidate is in a leadership role at an urban school with responsibility for developing teachers and building key components of high achieving culture
  • On-the-job training where candidates will apply their skills and receive feedback
  • A competency framework that defines the values and skills required for successful transformational leaders of urban schools
  • Access to a network of highly informed and influential individuals from North Texas and across the nation who are focused on leading transformational change in education
  • Through reduced tuition by SMU and fundraising by Teaching Trust of 80% of the costs of the 5 year program, the participant pays 20%, of the cost which is approximately $10,000


The program is divided into three parts:

  • Competency-based classroom instruction
  • Campus-based residency experience
  • School leadership support and evaluation

The 36 credit-hour degree program is completed in two years, including summer sessions, culminating in a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership with Urban School Specialization from Southern Methodist University. The first year is classroom instruction using case studies, teamwork, and campus based instructional projects. The coursework is organized into four seven-week modules. The second year is a campus-based residency (12 credit hours) where candidates are paired with Leadership Development Coaches. Candidates gain “on-the-job” training while applying their skills and receiving candid and continuous feedback. Post graduation, in years 3-5, cohort members are provided on-going professional development, evaluation and support. 


  • 2 years of teaching experience by June 2017
  • Commitment to working in a partner district or charter
    • Dallas ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Irving ISD, KIPP or Uplift Education
  • Desire to lead adults
  • Alignment with Teaching Trust values
    • Educational Equity
    • Disciplined Behavior
    • Courage and Resilience
    • Entrepreneurial Mindset
    • Reflection and Growth
  • Five year commitment to serving North Texas students

Frequently Asked Questions