Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency

Origin & Purposes

Vision: The Iowa Principal Leadership Academy is designed to address the needs in Iowa for strengthening and changing school and district leadership to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Mission: The mission of the Iowa Principal Leadership Academy is to certify aspiring PK-12 principals/administrators through professional and personal leadership development in order to serve schools where all students achieve at high levels.

The Advisory Board members of the Iowa Principal Leadership Academy boldly sought research, theory, and exemplary principal preparation programs that support the vision and the mission of the IPLA. Therefore, it was with enthusiasm that the members of the Advisory Board of the IPLA greeted both the ISLLC Standards and Iowa’s adoption of those standards. In fact, the Iowa State Board of Education required explicit, objective, and rigorous criteria to guide the development of quality administrative programs based on the standards. The Iowa State Board of Education recognized the need to offer quality administrative preparation programs in Iowa.

The Advisory Board of the Iowa Principal Leadership Academy choose to develop a viable alternative to available Iowa preparation programs. An Iowa Innovative Leadership Grant was awarded by the Iowa Department of Education in 2001 to a consortium of the four Area Educational Agencies in Northwest Iowa (as of July 1, 2006, NWAEA and Prairie Lakes AEA 8) to work in conjunction with the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI). (IPLA officially began operating in 2004.) The proposal was selected to respond to the DE’s request for an innovative and creative pilot to improve administrative leadership within the state of Iowa. Initially, a Think Tank was developed to establish what would become the IPLA. The Think Tank became the IPLA Advisory Board after final approval of the program by the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners and the Iowa State Board of Education. The membership of the Advisory Board was comprised of superintendents, principals, teachers, Area Education Agency administrators and directors, a staff person from tThe Department of Education, an Iowa Regents Board member, an adjunct professor from a local university administrative preparation program, and retired principals and superintendents. The Advisory Board was not hampered by conventional institutional practices or personal agendas resistant to change. However, the Advisory Board recognized that most of its members were trained in conventional institutional practices and were part of current Iowa theory and practice.

The primary goals stated in the pilot proposal to the Iowa Department of Education were to:

  1. develop relevant content
  2. implement creative processes and strategies to deliver the content
  3. build a statewide model of leadership preparation targeting the context found in rural Iowa

These goals still drive the IPLA and remain generally unchanged, albeit any new thinking reflects the extensive examination of theory, research and exemplary programs. Thus the Advisory Board of the Iowa Principal Leadership Academy seeks to replicate the current model.

Not being connected to a university preparation program became a difficult concept for many Advisory Board members. The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners offered no guarantees that IPLA graduates would be licensed. There was growing concern that universities would not accept IPLA graduates into advanced programs. The question of other states accepting principal certification was also a concern. The Advisory Board decided to pursue the same rigorous standards of those seeking the same licensure from university programs. Conversations and debate were long and arduous. The turning point came when Dr. Joe Murphy, of the University of Ohio (currently professor of education at Vanderbilt University), met with the Advisory Board. Dr. Murphy, who played a vital role in the development of the ISLLC standards as co-chair of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium of the Council of Chief State School Officers, began by saying, “You don’t need a university to do what you’re doing.” What the IPLA program needed was a thorough plan that met the Iowa criteria to meet program content, the Iowa Standards for School Administrators, and Iowa Code 281.79.16 (256) requirements. The Iowa Principal Leadership Academy program currently meets and exceeds the standards and expectations necessary to meet program review criteria. The Iowa Principal Leadership Academy provides a quality education to aspiring principals that leads to high levels of student performance for all PK-12 students

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