Leading urban schools is a complex job. Imagine if aspiring school leaders could spend time in practice – implementing high-leverage strategies in schools, then receiving coaching and feedback from experts, readjusting, and trying again to build skills and muscle memory around effective leadership practices. This authentic practice would significantly reduce the learning curve once leaders step into the role of school principal and afford them greater success from the start.
Teaching Trust, in partnership with Southern Methodist University, has worked over the last six years to offer the Aspiring Leaders Program, a practice-based model that prepares leaders for the job of a principal. Through this innovative program, future school leaders commit to serving in North Texas public schools for five years.
In year one, Aspiring Leaders take courses at SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School during the summer and on nights and weekends, in addition to their full time work as educators. In the second year, Aspiring Leaders Residents serve in an on-campus leadership role (e.g. Instructional Coach) and begin to implement the strategies and skills of school leadership. At the end of year two, Residents earn their M.Ed. in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Urban School Leadership from SMU, preparing them to step into higher-stakes leadership positions with experience driving change for students and staff. Leaders receive ongoing support from Teaching Trust coaches in years three through five, tailored to the specific needs of their evolving leadership role.
The Residency Year is a distinguishing component of the Aspiring Leaders Program, giving candidates opportunities to put into practice strategies learned in the classroom, including goal setting, observation and feedback for teachers, leading effective professional development, and more. With the support of Teaching Trust staff and a mentor principal, Aspiring Leaders gradually expand their scope of influence on campuses while learning how to effectively lead others to drive results for students.
The year culminates in a Capstone Project, where Residents identify specific instructional and cultural gaps on their campus, and create, manage, and lead plans for improvement. Teaching Trust works with the mentor principals to ensure that the projects are aligned with campus priorities and grounded in the needs of the school.
School campuses across the Dallas-Fort Worth area like T.W. Browne Middle School have seen the benefit of employing Teaching Trust Residents on their campus. Aspiring Leaders residents have worked at Browne over the past three years. Principal Jonathan Smith shares, “Working alongside Aspiring Leaders Program Residents from Teaching Trust has been a definite game-changer. The Residents contributed their developing skill-sets to help move our school from low performing to the one of the top 5 performing district middle schools in just three years.”
We are proud of the commitment of our Aspiring Leaders Residents and their dedication to their own personal growth and practice in service of students.