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UMKC Partnership To Prepare Urban Principals Is 'Missing Piece' From Teacher To Leader

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Asha Moore, left, and Tawana Hughes are part of KC PLUS, which is partnering with UMKC to prepare urban principals. The program kicks off with an intensive four-week summer course, followed by a two-year ‘residency’ working under experienced leaders.";s:

Asha Moore just finished her ninth year teaching. She loves being an educator, but she isn’t returning to the classroom in the fall. Instead, she’ll be taking over the dean of students job at the Academy for Integrated Arts, a Kansas City charter school focused on the arts. 

Moore had been interested in taking on a leadership role for a while. She received her master’s degree five years ago, but she didn’t feel ready until last year, when her principal started in a new program, KC PLUS, or Pathway to Leadership in Urban Schools.

“I immediately saw a change and a difference in the way she met with us,” Moore says. “Even just the more frequent observations – she was in our classrooms more and immediately implemented a data meeting with us. I was just so wowed ... I knew I wanted to be part of the PLUS program.”

PLUS is a model that’s been successful in other cities. It solves a really common problem teachers have when they make the transition to administration: they don’t actually have any experience leading a staff.

“Most of our students in the graduate program are ... working as teachers as they're going to school to get their principal certification,” says Gus Jacob, who teaches in the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “The missing piece of our program has been how we get the amount of fieldwork, the practical application of what they're learning about administration.”

There’s a story Jacob likes to tell about a conversation he once had with the dean of UMKC’s School of Medicine. He asked the dean how important classes were in preparing students to be doctors compared to the experience they gained during their residencies.

“He said even though classes are very important in forming the foundation, he gave it 10 percent classes and the residency 90 percent in preparation to be a doctor,” Jacob says.

That’s why PLUS chooses to call students in its program “residents.” KC PLUS residents are placed in the Kansas City Public Schools or charters to spend the two years they’re pursuing their administration certificate working as instructional coaches or in other support positions.

“They're observing, they're delivering PD (professional development), conducting staff meetings, leading IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings, coordinating family engagement events,” says India Wells-Carter, KC PLUS program manager. “What we really hope is their experience in their school building replicates the experience of what a school leader has to manage daily, weekly, monthly throughout the entire school year.”

Tawana Hughes has been in education for 17 years, including four years as an elementary school teacher and seven years teaching middle school mathematics. She says KC PLUS is helping her figure out who she is as a leader.

“(It’s) a safe environment where we're able to learn, make our errors, learn from those errors, understand the importance of giving constructive feedback and also receive constructive feedback,” Hughes says.

KC PLUS gets its funding  from the Hall Family Foundation, the Hallmark Foundation, the Sherman Family Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. KCUR’s education coverage is funded in part by the Kauffman Foundation, which had no influence on this reporting.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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