Overview of Courses and Master’s Portfolio

PLI is designed for working urban school professionals. Approximately 40 students enter the program each June and enroll in foundational courses in learning theory, social justice, law, management, research, school policy and instructional leadership, as outlined below. Most PLI candidates are full-time teachers, counselors, coaches, coordinators or assistant principals. The cohort learns together in university-based courses and through practice in schools supported by UCLA field supervisors. Candidates complete a master’s project at the end of their spring quarter in the program and then graduate in early August earning their Preliminary Administrative Services Credential and M.Ed.

Curriculum is the same for both the Preliminary Administrative Services Credential Traditional and Intern pathways.

First Summer Session

ED 448A – Learning and Leadership Amidst Inequality (4 units)

This course invites future school leaders to examine how learning shapes and is shaped by social and economic conditions, particularly conditions characterized by inequality.  In addition, candidates will explore the meaning and purpose of powerful learning through the lens of socio-cultural theory and critical race theory. This is one of the foundational courses.  Candidates will grapple throughout the program with the core ideas from this class, and what it means to lead schools in a time when inequality is a defining feature of our social, political, and economic landscape.  At the final meeting, candidates will participate in a “Democratic Leadership Task” that will call for individual reflection, a group memo, and a group oral presentation.  The “Democratic Leadership Task” will address an issue around leadership for powerful learning.  After completing the task, candidates will be asked to write a final reflection on what they have learned. Professor George Theoharis, Syracuse University, presents a module on leading for inclusive schools.

ED 443 – A Social Justice Context for Urban School Leadership (4 units)

This course explores the ways in which schools are influenced by the political, social, and cultural context and examines how the role of leadership can respond to the inequitable conditions that exist in underserved public schools.  To explore the role and influence that race, social class, culture, and politics play in transforming urban education, candidates will frame their analyses using a social justice framework.  Invoking a social justice framework means that candidates situate their analyses within the historical struggle against race and class oppression.  Candidates will explore the ways they, as social justice educators, define and demonstrate care in the schooling context.  Candidates’ final papers discuss how the urban context influences their conception of leading a culture of care, as well as, their roles as school leaders to create the conditions for care to exist. Candidates study leadership theories and are required to complete an equity audit of a specific underserved community which culminates in a group presentation of how they would lead to challenge marginalizing policies and practices in schools.

Fall Quarter

ED 411A – The Principal as Researcher (4 Units)

This course is designed to introduce candidates to the world of educational research to drive data-driven decision making, specifically for an underserve subgroup. The course will focus on using multiple measures—qualitative and quantitative–to determine school, teacher, and student success and needs. Using these knowledge, skills and attitudes, the candidate will lead an evidence-based inquiry to implement change at their school sites. In this course, candidates will focus on developing a leadership research project that will advance educational equity and social justice in the candidate’s school or district.  Candidates will focus on defining a focus area for a year-long research project challenging one aspect of marginalization, and this will serve as a major component of their fieldwork. Candidates will review relevant research literature, learn data collection and analysis strategies, and engage candidate’s school community in the project.  This course includes the candidates’ development of Cal APA cycle 1: Analyzing data to inform school improvement and promote equity, which will be submitted in fall quarter.

ED 448B – Educational Leadership Laboratory: Improving Complex Systems (4 units)

In this class, candidates will explore the application of improvement science to complex educational problems and the processes that govern everyday educational practice. Our long-term goal is to develop a set of methods to ensure that educational innovations and interventions are effective and reliable. Research insights can come from a variety of sources that include randomized field trials, laboratory studies, and reports from practice. The challenge candidates often face in research is that once there is some evidence that something works, folks lack well thought-out methods to guide these findings into everyday practice across multiple contexts. The science of improvement applied to education might offer powerful guidance along these lines. The best way to learn about Improvement Science is to do it. Candidates will identify a small set of tractable but important problems that vex students and their schools and then use the tools of Improvement Science to make progress toward addressing them. The course will be conducted as a practical seminar. Each week will be spent on developing candidates’ understanding of the focal problem by deepening their use of improvement science, such as, a cycle of Plan, Do, Study, Act. Toward the end of the course, candidates will present their learnings and findings about how Improvement Science skills can transform organizational and educational problems at school sites.

ED 498 A, B, C – Field Experience (12 units – Fall, Winter & Spring Quarters)

This three-course sequence emphasizes the translation of theory into practice addressing the California Administrator Performance Expectations (CAPES).  Candidates are expected to participate in authentic site-based administrative experiences; they will have the opportunity to learn by doing in schools or offices where they are currently assigned. Each candidate will develop a leadership project to implement throughout the year and will design a plan to ensure that all the CAPES are assessed. This is done under the immediate supervision of a school site supervisor who is responsible for providing direction and mentoring for the aspiring administrator. The UCLA field supervisor monitors, observes, assesses, and evaluates the candidates’ field experiences.  Candidates will use the evidence from their projects, their narratives describing their projects and their updates to design an ePortfolio housed on Chalk and Wire that speaks to their growth and development in meeting novice-level competency in the California Administrator Performance Expectations (CAPES). The eportfolio will include a final reflection addressing what candidates have learned about leadership and the subsequent steps they might take to advance their professional growth. At the end of the program, each candidate will meet with the hosting school administration to present the completed eportoflio and is assessed by the school site administrator. The UCLA field supervisor will assess the portfolio before the candidate submits it to the PLI director for approval who then verifies with the Office of Student Services that the candidate is qualified for the Certificate of Eligibility. The file is placed on Chalk and Wire for review by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC).

Winter Quarter

ED 420A – Critical Issues and Theories of Curriculum and Instruction (4 units)

The purpose of this course is to study, explore and analyze how school leaders meet the needs of marginalized students through leading a school community in the implementation of curriculum and instruction.  Through a social justice anti-biased lens, candidates will examine the philosophical, ethical, political and cultural underpinnings of curriculum and instruction theory, research and practice.  The course will focus on curriculum and instructional leadership as a democratic and collaborative practice viewed  through a culturally relevant and responsive lens.   Candidates will become familiar with the Common Core Standards and practices, along with the SBAC assessments. Candidates will reflect upon the concepts introduced from the course readings, class discussions and group presentations to write about their curriculum and instruction leadership philosophy, and the vision they have designed to move their staff and school community towards that philosophy.  Candidates will discuss the impact they believe their philosophy and vision will have on marginalized groups, school and community stakeholders.  The Final Paper will be evaluated for written competency (quality, thoroughness, depth, and professionalism) as well as the candidate’s mastery of pertinent literature, academic and theoretical underpinnings and development of professional skills. Each candidate will present a review of instructional materials and how those materials might or might not support student learning. The task is to define how, as a leader, the candidate would address issues of congruity or incongruity in implementing mandatory instructional practices or programs. This course is integrated with ED 441A.  Professor Tyrone Howard, UCLA GSEIS, offers a module on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and its role in working with Black Youth.

ED 441A – Leadership of Core Practices: Supervision of Instruction (4 units)

The purpose of this course is to explore the historical and theoretical frameworks of supervision practices, considering the economic, social, political, and educational context of public schooling. This course asks candidates to examine processes a leader uses to co-create a school culture that promotes teachers’ professional growth and potential through all stages of adult development.   Emphasis is placed on assignments that examine the beliefs and values of leaders and how those are reflected in supervision practices.  Assignments are intended to encourage the candidate to develop a clear understanding of the role the leader plays in promoting a learning community focused on equity and access for all students.  Candidates are asked to examine themes of supervision, professional development and evaluation through a critical lens.  This course focuses on leadership skills in leading instruction with a focus on the needs of teachers to develop skills in recognizing and addressing the needs of marginalized candidates. The Supervision of Instruction Project is the core assignment intended to connect theory, philosophy, and beliefs to practice. It involves site-based assignments such as peer observations.  It is an analysis and reflection on the leaders role in collaboration with teachers, in the development of professional learning of teachers, and the ability to assess and evaluate teacher performance. Candidates will develop a coaching approach based on PLI’s reciprocal learning partnerships coaching model. Professor Daniel Solórzano, UCLA GSEIS, leads a module on microaggressions on teachers, youth, and families, and how leaders create cultures of learning that push against institutional and personal microaggressions. The second Cal APA cycle, facilitating communities of practice, is developed in this course and submitted in the winter quarter.  Cal APA Cycle 3,  supporting teacher growth, will be developed in this course and submitted in the spring quarter.

Spring Quarter

ED 296G&H – Law and Educational Practice (4 units)

The impact that legal proceedings have on schooling will be explored. Candidates will become knowledgeable regarding the United States and California laws, education code and court systems and how they impact schools and school leadership. Particular legal issues that have influenced education including immigration, LGBT issues, school safety, hate crimes, employment issues, equity and access, and special education will be discussed.  In the course paper, candidates will have the opportunity to focus on the marginalized groups they have chosen to examine for the Master’s. In the paper, they will be asked to build on previous coursework by integrating relevant legal content and public policy considerations into an analysis of what might be done to make things better – not just for the marginalized groups, but for everyone.

ED 440C – Democracy, Democratic Leadership and Public Accountability (4 units)

ED 440C focuses attention on the importance of addressing the needs of students who, for a variety of reasons, have not been successful in existing school cultures.  It seeks to shed light on the causes of marginalization and strategies for creating more democratic, equitable, and inclusive schooling.   In recent years, there has been a general clamor for greater accountability in public education.  Public officials, members of the media, and community leaders have all called for schools to be more responsible.  In response, state and federal officials have dramatically reshaped the rules governing how American education works.  Despite all this focus on “accountability,” there has been little attention paid to the purpose of education.  Who is being held to account, for what, and how?

  • What is democracy, democratic education, and democratic leadership?
  • In what sense do democratic education and democratic leadership protect and advance the interests of the least powerful or most vulnerable?
  • How can public schools promote civic learning and civic engagement?
  • What does it mean to have a democratic school in terms of student voice, faculty governance, parent engagement, and school discipline?

The main assignment will be a vision statement describing the purpose for engaging stakeholders in a democratic leadership approach, drawing on literature from the course and other sources, including an interview with a school leader, participation in school site council meetings and interviewing youth organization participants.

As part of the course, there are two modules given: 1) Professor Patricia Gándara, UCLA GSEIS, Civil Rights Project, engages candidates in a session on the current policies affecting English Learners/Bilingual Immigrants, and the second module is with Professor Daniel Solórzano. He continues the exploration of micro-aggressions and the concept of micro-affirmations and how leaders address these concepts and practices in schools.

ED 597 Master’s Thesis Preparation

The Master’s Portfolio synthesizes and analyzes the candidate’s coursework and field experiences to address and challenge marginalization. The theme of the portfolio is:  College access for all in economically stressful times.

Second Summer Session

ED 470A – Large Systems and Individual Schools: School Management and Operations (4 units)

School Management and Operations, the “nuts and bolts” of the daily running of schools, will be framed through the lens of accountability to ensure equity and access for all stakeholders.  The purpose of the course is to provide a comprehensive overview of the managerial and operational issues that school leaders encounter on a continuous basis.  The course will be case-based, including lecture format, small group interactive discussions, and presentations by expert practitioners in curriculum, student services, special education, and restorative justice.

The UCLA PLI is designing several new learning activities to implement during 2014-2015.  In the final course of the program, ED 470, Operations and Management, an additional assessment was implemented to expand the leadership perspective of each candidate.  Each candidate participated in a mock interview with K-12 school and district administrators.  Candidates prepared for the interview through examining many of the core leadership issues they learned throughout the program.  The course instructors, candidates and the district and school administrators evaluated this as a valuable experience.  Consequently, three additional learning activities are set to take place during the transition year to evaluate each candidate’s theory to practice mastery.  The new learning activities will occur at the end of each academic quarter and will be considered as a marker of gaining leadership expertise.  At the end of fall quarter, each candidate will present his/her fieldwork leadership project proposal to a group of educators and/or parents at the school/district site and be evaluated on a leadership rubric.  At the end of winter quarter, each candidate will make a presentation to district/school/community partners on one of three areas:  curriculum, finance or law.  At the end of the spring quarter, each candidate will make a formal presentation about the findings of his/her leadership project to a group of school and/or district educators and/or parents and be rated on a leadership rubric.  Finally, the last leadership activities will be the mock interview with school and district administrators and community members.

California Administrator Performance Expectations (CAPE)

California Administrator Performance Expectations (CAPE)

Leading for Justice

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The application filing period for the 2020-21 academic year will close on February 3, 2020.

Principal Leadership Institute (PLI) Alumni

PLI is about praxis; it’s about digging deep into the nuances of theory and frameworks, mining for those best practices related to building sustainable, transformational, and equitable opportunities for our students, and executing intentional, social justice-driven plans at the grassroots level within our schools and communities. PLI has dramatically impacted the way in which I view the urban educational landscape today.

D’Anza Smith-Rodriguez

Literacy Coach for School Transformation at Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

My experience in PLI was transformational. In spite of over 15 years of teaching for social justice, it was not until the experience of working intimately with talented colleagues under the inspiring tutelage of instructors in this program that I felt I truly discovered my role and purpose.

Daryl Brook

Principal, New Los Angeles Charter

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