Principals Excellence Program | University of Kentucky and Pike County Public Schools [e-Lead]

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Principals Excellence Program | University of Kentucky and Pike County Public Schools

Program Summary


The Principals Excellence Program (PEP) is a collaborative enterprise between the University of Kentucky (UK) and Pike County Public Schools (Pike County). During calendar years 2003 and 2004, the partnership delivered intensive yearlong leadership development for two cohorts of practicing principals and prospective candidates holding administrator certification. The overarching goal for the program is improved school leadership that assures learning for all students in high-need rural schools in the eastern Kentucky district. Program objectives and accompanying stategies addressed recruitment, development, and retention as means to reculture the principalship and expand the candidate pool in Pike County. For more information see the PEP's School Leadership Development Program.

Theory of Change

PEP was designed on the premise that becoming a principal requires more than simply completing preservice preparation. Making the career change from teacher to administrator is an intricate process of personal and professional transformation that can often take considerable time and support by others. To achieve the desired goal and objectives, the program designers selected socialization into the community of administrative practice as the theory of change for PEP. Four theories of action (i.e., situated learning, leadership mentoring, community building, succession planning) were used to develop curricula, learning activities, and performance assessments and to guide the formative and summative evaluations required by the external funding source (US Department of Education).

Definition of Leadership

The Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) increased emphasis on instructional leadership in all public schools and served as the catalyst for a new principalship in the Commonwealth. Educational administrators at all levels have been held accountable for assuring continuous educational progress of all P-12 students since the advent of high-stakes accountability introduced by KERA. In 2002, the Kentucky General Assembly further emphasized student learning by passing legislation requiring schools to close achievement gaps among identified student sub-populations. Hence, the concept of principal as instructional leader whose vision and practice results in raised academic achievement for all students was the leadership orientation that guided the design, implementation, and evaluation of PEP.

Mission Statement

The overarching goal for PEP is the creation of professional learning communities composed of practicing and aspiring principals with shared dispositions and desire to be effective change agents, regular habits of reflective practice, commitments toward lifelong learning, and skills as data-based decision makers. Reculturing the principalship and expanding the candidate pool in Pike County requires networks of educational leaders who share common visions for the future for Pike County and renewed energies for sustained work to transform those visions into realities.


PEP was the seventh of 20 initiatives awarded grants in October 2001 through the first authorization of the NCLB School Leadership Development Program. The UK-Pike County partnership received $503,331.00 (10/1/02 to 9/30/06) from the Office of Innovation and Improvement to design, implement, and evaluate the post-certification administrator development program. Funds covered all UK personnel costs, travel expenses for UK professors between Lexington and Pikeville (a 300-mile roundtrip), instructional materials and training supplies, contractual fee to hire a program evaluator, district reimbursement of substitute expenses for participating teachers, stipends for mentor principals ($500 each semester), tuition payment for 18 graduate credits in educational administration from UK and stipends ($1000 each at conclusion of yearlong program) for cohort participants. Most cohort members used their credits toward completion of additional educator Kentucky administrator certifications. Monetary investiment in leadership development was approximately $9,000 for each PEP cohort member. The grant also included funds for travel by the project director and others to national and state professional conferences for dissemination of reasearch findings and to the required annual project director meetings in Washington, DC.


All cohort members were required to hold at least a valid Kentucky provisional principal certification as a condition for selection into the program. Approximately half of the participants used course credits earned through PEP to complete requirements of additional administrator certifications (e.g., professional principal certification, supervisor of instruction).


Kentucky adopted verbatim the Interstate School Leadership Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards for School Leaders in 1998 as the framework for the preparation, induction, and evaluation of administrators. Rather than using all six standards as the curriculum framework for PEP, the project designers selected the four recurring themes in the Standards identified by researchers at the Educational Testing Service. The themes -- a vision of success, a focus on teaching and learning, an engagement of all stakeholders, a demonstration of ethical practice -- provided an easy method for articulating the expectations for the recultured principalship envisoned by the Pike County leadership team.

Measuring K-12 Student Success

Schools are evaluated biennially based on the KERA school accountability model. Student performance data (e.g., scores on standardized tests, assessments of writing portfolios) and non-cognitive data (e.g., attendance, retention and dropout rates, successful transition of students) are combined with other data to determine an annual performance index for each public school. The Kentucky Department of Education classifies a school’s performance into one of three categories (in need of assistance, progressing, meets goals). Kentucky policymakers expanded school accountability in 2002 to include assessment of achievement gap status through AYP requirements every year in reading and mathematics for Grades 3 to 8. The increased pressures of national and state accountability policies amplified Pike County’s need for school leaders who understand and focus on learners and the conditions of learning.

The overarching goal for PEP is improved school leadership that assures learning for all students in high-need rural schools in eastern Kentucky. The objectives were to deliver intensive leadership development as a strategy to recruit, develop, and retain principals by re-culturing the Pike County principalship and expanding is candidate pool for anticipated openings. The curriculum and learning activities focused on the principal’s role as instructional leader in a high-need rural school in eastern Kentucky. Measuring the true success of the program based on P-12 student achievement will require more time.


Tricia Browne-Ferrigno, PEP Project Director
University of Kentucky, College of Education
Department of Educational Leadership Studies
111 Dickey Hall, Lexington KY, 40506-0017
Phone: 859.257.5504 | Fax: 859.257.1015 | E-mail:

More Information

View all links for the Principals Excellence Program


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