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A national sample of 417 students from 29 U.S. colleges and universities was surveyed on the quality and impact of their educational leadership programs. The results indicated that the participants were positive about the quality of the programs and that they developed a more comprehensive understanding of educational goals and schooling functions after entering the programs. However, the participants indicated that the programs should be changed to accommodate their preference for skill- and practice-oriented courses, and that it is still possible for someone who knows education to be a reasonably good administrator without going through a leadership program. Challenges for educators of school leaders were discussed in the light of the findings.
Quality and Impact of Educational Leadership Programs: A National Study
The school reform movement of the 1980s has impacted the way universities prepare prospective administrators. There has been a growing trend to base educational leadership programs on a "practice-based, practice-driven" curriculum rather than social science theory (National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1990; National Commission for the Principalship, 1990). Descriptions of these new types of programs have been referenced in the literature (Carter, 1994; Chapman, 1990; Coleman, 1991; Cordeiro & Sloan, 1996; Daresh & Playko, 1993; Geltner, 1993; Holdaway & Riordan, 1996; Jacobson, 1996; Katz, 1991; Kim, 1996; Peel & Wallace, 1996; Place & Reitzug, 1992; Pohland, 1986; Reed & Hannaford, 1991; Smith, 1990; Twale & Short, 1989). These experiential programs included components such as mentoring, field participation, paid internships, and practice-oriented curricula. However, current research has failed to answer the questions of whether these "new" programs are meeting the needs of participants and having the intended effect on administrators now entering the workplace (Jacobs, 1991).
Delivery of educational leadership programs by colleges and universities and the impact of traditional curricula on prospective administrators continues to be debated and scrutinized. The literature review was organized around three major areas which included program relevance or practicality, student satisfaction with their program, and the perceived quality of mentoring experiences. Previous research focused on the impact of educational leadership programs on administrative practices. Earlier inquirers typically surveyed participants' perceptions of the impact of educational leadership program experiences on actual administrator practices. Sample sizes of these studies were limited, ranging from 10 to 120 participants. With one exception, the programs studied involved universities in the United States.
Previous studies examined participants' satisfaction in regard to their experiences with specific courses and/or the program (Cordeiro & Sloan, 1996; Jacobson & Woodworth, 1990; Kim, 1996; Reed & Hannaford, 1991; Montgomerie, Peters, & Ward, 1991; Smith, 1990). Participants reported satisfaction levels ranging from dissatisfaction for rural administrators (Jacobson & Woodworth, 1990) to positive satisfaction with the courses and/or their programs (Cordeiro & Sloan, 1996; Kim, 1996; Montgomerie, Peters & Ward, 1991; Reed & Hannaford, 1991; Smith, 1990). Smith (1990) found that graduates of a nontraditional (practice-based) program expressed a higher level of satisfaction with their programs than did those who had graduated from traditional (theory-based) programs. Cordeiro and Sloan (1996) indicated practicing administrators recounted internships and practica as the most significant portion of their educational training; both mentors (practicing administrators) and interns (prospective administrators) indicated they learned and benefited from the internship experience. Wylie and Clark (1994) stated that master's level students rated internships as the most beneficial and least academically demanding of all activities. This reflection raised issues regarding the organization, quality, and supervision of internships. Cordeiro and Sloan (1996) identified mentor selection, organization of opportunities, theory-practice links, and definitive stages of internship development as considerations for program developers. Peel and Wallace (1996) stated internships were significant experiences in the careers of practicing administrators, noting that administrators who participated in internships credited these early field experiences to their administrative success.
Several related studies examined the quality of administrative internship programs (Heller, Conway, & Jacobson, 1988; Jacobson & Woodworth, 1990; LaCost & Pounder, 1987; Peel & Wallace, 1996). Participants in Heller, Conway, and Jacobson's (1988) study reported their programs were impractical. Mixed ratings were also attributed to such program components as on-the-job training through internships, assessment centers, workshops, and staff development programs. However, the participants in Peel and Wallace's (1996) study considered their program to be of excellent quality. In the 1988 Executive Educator study involving 1,123 practicing school administrators, 44.6% of rural administrators, 47% of suburban, and 48.3% of urban administrators believed graduate preparation programs failed to provide adequate preparation for administrative positions. Coincidentally, 55.5% of the administrators viewed on-the-job training as the most significant part in training for their current positions (Jacobson & Woodworth, 1990). Field experiences utilizing adult learning theory resulted in collaboration, reflection, and a link to challenges faced by practicing administrators. LaCost and Pounder (1987) revealed the experiential programs helped to fuse the discrepancy between theory and practice.
Closely associated with quality is the relevance of educational leadership program components to administrators' positional requirements. Jacobson and Woodworth (1990) identified problems in administrator preparation, with rural, urban, and suburban administrators all expressing concerns about the relevance of university curriculum. Several researchers have examined the effect of academic programs on the student performance in administrative positions (Chapman, 1990; Jacobs, 1991). A majority of administrators reported the major areas of their educational leadership programs as relevant to their current position (Chapman, 1990). Administrators recognized the most adequate program components as (a) …