UCAPP: Preparing Tomorrow’s Principals with Vision, Experience and Knowledge

ThinkStockGraduates give high grades to the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP), as well as credit it for giving them the confidence, knowledge, experience and professional connections needed to achieve their career goals of becoming a principal, vice principal, department head or other school administrator.

Indeed, more than 80 percent of those who’ve completed the rigorous two-year program give it an “A” for the professional learning, growth, management skills, collaboration tools and intellectual introspection they received in the classroom, curriculum laboratory and from mentors during their clinical internships.

These 90-hours-per-semester internships prove to be one of the most valuable aspects of the program for many students, said Neag School of Education Department of Educational Leadership Head Casey Cobb, Ph.D. A partnership with the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) ensures that each UCAPP participant is matched with an “appropriate and exemplary mentor administrator.”

“Our partnership with CAS is one of the many strengths of the program,” said Cobb, who also serves as director of the Neag Center for Education Policy Analysis. “Their vast network of schools helps ensure students are matched with the best possible mentor, and also allows us to bring in instructors and speakers with valuable experience—administrators who’ve faced and learned from budget crises, personnel issues, ethical situations, and the many other challenges educational leaders face.”

“Even the best classroom instruction can’t fully prepare someone to become a principal or other type of administrator. Much of the most important learning comes from practical experience, so we work hard to provide students with that essential blend of classroom and clinical learning,” Cobb continued.

Ranked as one of the leading educational administrator programs in the U.S., UCAPP earns students a Sixth-Year Diploma, as well as qualifies them to take the Connecticut State Certification as Intermediate Administrators (CT-092) exam. By documenting the integrated, problem-based learning they experience, students also create a professional portfolio that shows they’ve achieved what the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education defines as administrative competency, as well as met Educational Leadership Constituent Council specialized professional association standards. The curriculum also incorporates Connecticut Common Core of Learning requirements.

“There’s a whole new emphasis on the role of principals, who today are really at the center of leading the many reform efforts under way,” Cobb said. “Having knowledgeable and skilled leaders is more important than ever, and the reality is that there is a shortage of really good principals—principals who know how teaching and learning occur, and who have the ability to inspire and lead. It’s a broader role than many people think.”

As many as 90 students divided into roughly 15-member cohorts are enrolled in the program at any one time. Since the majority are also working teachers, cohorts meet both on UConn’s main campus in Storrs and at satellite campuses in Farmington, Stamford and other locations, to make attending as convenient as possible, Cobb said.

Courses and seminars that range from Contemporary Educational Policy Issues to the Legal Aspects of Education, and Creating and Sustaining a Positive School Climate, are not just grounded in adult and experiential learning theory, but led by instructors who worked in schools or as school administrators and are considered experts in their fields.

Overseeing all this is UCAPP Director Diane Ullman, Ph.D., who before joining the Neag School of Education in the Spring of 2012 was an adjunct instructor and superintendent of schools in Simsbury for eight years.

“It’s the wealth of experience that comes from the internship and our outstanding instructors that give our students an edge,” Ullman said. “Our students are taught by some of the best practitioners in the state, all of whom are committed to not just sharing knowledge, but inspiring vision and purpose.”

Also new to the program are assistant professors Richard Gonzales, Ph.D., a former elementary teacher and principal in Texas and Colorado, and Sarah Woulfin, Ph.D., whose research focuses on the relationships between educational policy, leadership and classroom practice. The two bring to the program essential experience working in urban school districts, as well what Woulfin calls “a shared dedication to developing the best possible educational leaders.”

“There’s so much work to be done in Connecticut to remedy the achievement gap,” Woulfin said, “and it’s exciting to know I’m helping create leaders who will help facilitate some of the much-needed change to the way we teach and help all students succeed. Today’s educational leaders need to think critically and creatively, and that’s what we help them achieve.”

Deadline to apply for the program is March 1. Among other requirements, candidates must have a master’s degree, a minimum of three years of teaching experience and be screened by a committee made up of Neag faculty, CAS directors and clinical supervisors. Click here  for all application steps and requirements.