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Journal of Educational Administration


Emerald Publishing

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© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: School improvement planning and implementation is one organizational process by which principals may positively impact school and student outcomes. Limited research, however, has explored how principal preparation programs prepare aspiring leaders for this common school leadership activity. This study examined aspiring principals engaged in the school improvement process by evaluating what they included in their school improvement plans (SIPs) that were developed as part of their field experience. Design/methodology/approach: The authors examined SIPs aspiring principals collaboratively developed as part of their field experience. Using an abductive analysis method, combining both deductive and inductive coding methods, authors examined 77 SIPs in which aspiring principals used school level data in planning. Findings: Each aspiring principal's SIP was contextually specific. No two plans were identical relative to who was targeted for improvement and how the plan was to be implemented, indicating aspiring principals can apply course-based learning and implement important data-driven decision-making skills in field-based school improvement projects. Research limitations/implications: Findings are exploratory and limited to SIPs developed by aspiring principals in one university program in one large urban school district context. The findings that specific requirements and program structures affected the aspiring principal's school improvement planning process as did the overall school context adds to current understandings of how course-based learning is applied. However, further investigations are needed. Practical implications: Findings provide evidence of how school leadership preparation programs may impact leadership development relative to skills associated with school improvement planning. The findings also suggest the importance of detailed analysis of aspiring principals school improvement planning as a program evaluation process. Originality/value: This study was the first to document the content of aspiring principals' field-based SIPS and how skills in data-driven decision-making were applied in a SIP field-based activity.


Data-driven decision-making; Principal preparation; Principals; School improvement


Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Leadership | Teacher Education and Professional Development

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