Aspiring Principals Program

About the Program

 The program for those aspiring to lead a school will begin with a four-week problem-based Summer Intensive (July 2-27, 2018) and continue during the school year with seventeen seminars held on Thursdays from 4:30 - 8:30 p.m. and eight Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. For the past six years, the year-long program—offering licensure preparation as well as the option of an M.Ed. in Organizational Management—has been based in Springfield where close to eighty aspiring principals from SPS as well as Worcester, Holyoke and Boston have participated.  Teachers21 is enormously grateful to the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation for the generous scholarship assistance provided to promising Springfield and Holyoke candidates over the past three years. 

Recent graduates are currently serving as principals in the schools of Boston, Brockton, East Bridgewater, New Bedford, Springfield and Southbridge. Other graduates are leading schools in Boston, Southbridge and Springfield while still others are serving as district program directors and curriculum specialists in Lawrence, Worcester, New Bedford, Southbridge, and Springfield.

Teachers21 and its partner districts in the Urban Principals Development Institute have collective pride in the remarkable caliber of the candidates that have been drawn to this problem-based approach to professional formation over the past six years.  The admissions process for the seventh cohort—scheduled for 2018-2019—is now under way.  Program components are further described below.  Prospective candidates may also contact the UPDI director, Gail Donovan, at


Unique Program Components of the Aspiring Principals Program

Problem-based learning (PBL) provides the organizing principle for the Aspiring Principals Program.  PBL is increasingly proving its effectiveness as a training vehicle for professional development.  A methodology originally piloted for the training of physicians, PBL has proved comparable effective in the training of aspiring school principals.  When the research increasingly showed that PBL-trained physicians emerged with better skills in problem framing, problem diagnosis decision making, and team work, Edwin Bridges of the Stanford Graduate School of Education refined the method for the preparation of principals and achieved comparable results in these domains as well as in the formulation of solutions and consensus building skills.

For the past seventeen years, PBL has been the hallmark of the training of New York City principals through the NYC Leadership Academy (NYCLA).  Teachers21 became the beneficiary of NYCLA’s know-how when the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education selected the non-profit organization to establish a Turnaround Leadership Academy in 2012.  Teachers21 has sustained the problem-based learning methodology beyond the two-year turnaround pilot through its Urban Principals Development Institute, advancing it especially through its work with Aspiring Principals.

The problem-based learning events featured in the four-week Summer Intensive are organized around a scenario school based on one of the lowest performing schools in the Commonwealth.  Participants work in teams of four—each team functioning as the “collective principal”—to formulate a much-needed plan of action based on careful analysis of multiple data sources reflecting the current performance levels of the students as well as on the school as a whole.  Subsequent week-long problems focus on understanding the school in the context of its community, issues of race and diversity, managing the improvement process, strengthening the faculty through formal and embedded professional development, and developing parents and representative community members to have voices and vital roles in a school that prepares children and young people for success in life.

Embedded in the work of addressing these larger PBL events are intensive skill-building opportunities in data analysis, agenda setting, team building, supervision and evaluation, giving and receiving feedback in 360-degree evaluation sessions, and public presentations.

During the school year that follows the Summer Intensive, participants attend regular seminars that delve into these and other topics and skills in more depth.  Additionally, they benefit from 1:1 coaching from master practitioners distinguished by their exemplary leadership of Massachusetts schools.Those seeking licensure complete a 500-hour practicum in their school under their building principal.  On an optional basis, participants can also earn an M.Ed. in Organizational Management through the Van Loan Graduate School at Endicott College; no additional course work is required.



Application Information

 Please complete this 

Application Form (pdf)

 or email Marie Deedy  or June Eressy  for an electronic application. 

Instructions for Letters of Recommendation

Follow the mailing instructions at the end of the application. When complete, submit with a $50 application fee. Completed applications are due by February 28, 2018. Applications will be accepted on a space available basis after that date. We strongly recommend that applications be submitted as soon as possible. Interviews will be scheduled in late March and early April 2018.

Upon acceptance into program, one must submit a $300 non-refundable deposit which will be applied to the July 1, 2018 tuition payment.

Contact Marie Deedy for any additional information. 


2018 Components

Program Features:

  1. Four-week Summer Intensive featuring Problem-Based Learning
  2. 500-hour practicum in a school with a Mentor Principal
  3. Seventeen seminar classes including support for MA-PAL tasks
  4. Supervised field immersion experiences and One-to-One coaching
  5. Completion of program and requisite ESE MA-PALs lead to Administrator Licensure
  6. M.Ed. in Organizational Managment (optional - additional cost; financial aid available)

Application Prerequisites:

  • Teaching License
  • An undergraduate or graduate school record
  • Currently employed with 3-5 years of teaching experience

Course schedule:

Summer Intensive: July 2 - July 27, 2018 (no class July 4th)
Seminar Classes: Seventeen seminar classes on Thursday evenings and Saturdays throughout the school year


The Aspiring Principals Program includes the program and licensure. Admission to the program will be competitive. Tuition is $12,000.  The additional cost for participants seeking a Master Degree is approximately $3,850    

Masters Degree Option:

Program participants have the option of earning a M.Ed. in Organizational Management from Endicott.  Additional course work is not involved for this degree; successful completion of the Aspiring Principals Program  fulfills the requirements for this degree.  Tuition and fees for the graduate degree are approximately $3,850. Over and above tuition for the UPDI program; the fee quoted here includes special fees for registration and graduation.  Financial aid is available through Endicott College for both UPDP and the degree-program, if a participant enrolls at Endicott. 






Urban Leadership program participant

I guess the ratings say it all…. Overall, it was a challenging, time consuming, exhausting program that I felt was completely worth every minute of lost sleep!"

Urban Leadership program participant

The summer intensive was even better than advertised! Just yesterday, my brother in law asked me "how I did" in the program as in what grade did I get. He knew, everyone knew, how hard I worked and he could only assume there was an evaluation of some sort. I told him there was no grade and that reflected on the value of the program. We worked impossibly hard simply because we believed in the work and the possibility of improving ourselves as professionals."

Urban Leadership program mentor

This graduate has made progress with developing much needed systems in her building, she has established clear protocols, developed lines of communication, and she is taking an active role in her building by leading from the 'front'."

Urban Leadership program mentor

I think this graduate is a star. Our relationship is very strong; he makes sure he includes me in the loop. He thinks very much out of box, yet he is a traditionalist in many other ways. He is very comfortable with himself which is not always the case with first time leaders...My instincts and what I have seen so far tell me that he is a profoundly talented leader."

Urban Leadership program mentor

I learned much from (my mentee). I am not sure if it was the individual or the program but she was by far the most productive and effective intern I have had. To date I have mentored 10 principal interns. She taught me what a prepared intern should look like before they take on the role of principal. I also learned much about Common Core."


Program History

Problem-based learning (PBL) underpins the Program for Aspiring Principals. Using problem-based learning approaches for training and professional development was first pioneered with physicians-in-training at Harvard Medical School. Some years later, PBL was refined at Stanford University for the preparation of school principals. Research at Harvard and Stanford on the effectiveness of the training model has consistently shown that graduates—whether physicians or principals—are far more astute at problem diagnosis, consensus building, the formulation of solutions, and decision making. 

For the last sixteen years PBL has been the hallmark of the training of New York City principals through the New York City Leadership Academy (NYCLA). Some of the most notable foundations funded NYCLA very generously to support others who would do likewise. Teachers21 became the beneficiary of NYCLA's know-how when the organization was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to pilot a comparable training program to prepare leaders for highly challenging schools in the states. This program evolved into the Urban Principals Development Institute.



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