TC's Summer Principals Academy Expands Southward | Teachers College Columbia University

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TC's Summer Principals Academy Expands Southward

A new master's degree program in New Orleans is timed to southern school schedules
Since its launch in 2005, TC’s Summer Principals Academy (SPA) has succeeded by almost any measure. The program has prepared outstanding teachers to take on the responsibility of running a school. Its graduates have deployed to 932 schools serving 233,000 children across the country. And many of the new schools that SPA students have blueprinted for their capstone project exercises have become actual brick-and-mortar institutions.

Yet SPA director Craig Richards, Professor of Education, and his team have been aware of a problem. The program’s ultra-intensive sessions, which take place in July and early August, are poorly timed for teachers from the South, where the school year starts and ends earlier. Southern educators who enroll in SPA have been inconvenienced, while others who were interested have been deterred from participating.

The solution? Offer a separate master’s degree program timed to fit the southern school calendar, based in a Southern city that’s a hub for new thinking on education.

Since late May, the program has done precisely that. The founding cohort of “SPA at New Orleans,” hosted by Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives (but granting a TC-Columbia degree), has been hard at work taking in the same curriculum that is offered in New York, delivered by most of the same faculty.

Of the group of 28, about half are teachers in the New Orleans or Baton Rouge areas, says Juliette de Wolfe, the New Orleans program’s assistant director. Others come from Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere. Twelve receive minority scholarships.

In keeping with the SPA model, the students will intern next year at the schools where they already teach, in close collaboration with their principals and with the mentors with whom they are matched. In January they will join their New York peers for an intensive “callback” weekend of training and activities at TC, before returning to New Orleans for their second summer session.

New Orleans was a natural fit for the program, says de Wolfe, because, since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the city has been “an epicenter for education reform. There is a strong focus on innovation.”

The Crescent City also offers distinctive enrichment opportunities. One day this month, the cohort’s team-building activity was to build a Mardi Gras float, with guidance from the all-women Krewe of Muses. One leadership workshop was held with a jazz quartet.

Expansion plans are already afoot. The program aims to enroll 45 students in next year’s entering cohort. In time, it may bring in area faculty. “As we create our networks, we can draw on all the great resources we have here in the South,” de Wolfe says.

Published Tuesday, Jul. 17, 2012


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