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University of Iowa News Release


March 12, 2010

UI to launch new superintendent licensure program this summer

The University of Iowa College of Education will offer a new superintendent licensure program this summer after securing approval from the Iowa State Board of Education at the board's meeting in Des Moines Thursday.

UI officials hope to enroll 12 to 15 students in the first year of the UI Superintendent/Specialist Degree Program and begin replenishing a field expected to see a decline over the next five years because of retirements.

sullivanThe UI program involves a combination of distance education through the UI Division of Continuing Education and face-to-face instruction, according to Anne Sullivan, clinical associate professor of educational administration policy in the UI College of Education.

"The superintendent must know how to facilitate change as well as the day-to-day operations of the district," said Sullivan, program director and a former superintendent herself. "State and federal educational agencies as well as local communities hold schools accountable like never before, and this is not going to change. We must prepare leaders who are willing and able to provide this type of leadership."

Statistics from the 2009 Iowa Department of Education Conditions of Education Report demonstrate the need for the program. The report shows that more than half of the superintendents in 2008-09 in Iowa were between the ages of 51 and 60 years old. Half of the superintendents in the 10 largest districts in 2008-09 were between 56 and 60 years old, and 26 percent of Iowa's 337 superintendents were eligible to retire in 2008-09.

Sullivan also facilitated a survey of Iowa superintendents in January 2009. Of about 208 respondents, 77 superintendents - or about 37 percent -- indicated they would only work one to five more years.

"These statistics would indicate there will be openings for superintendents in the state of Iowa," Sullivan said. "Iowa needs to grow its own leaders to replenish upcoming retirements. This program will help to accomplish that."

This will be the fourth superintendent preparation program in the state. The other programs are offered at Drake University, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

The UI's superintendent's preparation program is based on student achievement-focused leadership connected to the program's conceptual framework: instructional, transitional and operational leadership. This philosophy evolved from current research on educational preparation programming, feedback from practitioners and stakeholder groups, Chapter 79 of Iowa Code and the expertise of UI faculty.

Sullivan added that the UI program is unique because it requires a course in legislative advocacy, and a social advocacy summit will be a required component of learning.

"The demands of district level leadership have changed greatly in the past few years," Sullivan said. "There is a much greater emphasis on the superintendent being an instructional leader. This means a superintendent must understand how to oversee the academic program including assessing the effectiveness of instruction, and the quality and rigor of the curriculum, and understanding assessment data. All of this must then align with professional development and program evaluation."

Sullivan added that the UI program involves close collaboration with school districts to provide authentic internship experiences in the field. Clinical experiences are interwoven with coursework and flexible to meet individual career interests and goals.

It should take two years to earn the degree and license, Sullivan said, and students must hold a master's degree in educational administration or a relevant field to apply. UI officials anticipate many current Iowa principals being interested in the program.

Thirty-two semester hours are required for superintendent endorsement, and for an additional five hours of elective credit, students can earn an educational specialist degree (Ed.S).

During summers students will come together on the UI campus for such courses as orientation to the field and school finance and for a social advocacy summit. During the fall and spring semesters, students have the choice of taking classes via distance education or joining their cohort on campus.

Statewide organizations that collaborated with the UI to help develop the program include the School Administrators of Iowa, Iowa Association of School Boards and the Iowa State Education Association.

The deadline to apply for the program is May 15. For more information contact Sullivan at 319-335-5373 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Anne Sullivan, UI College of Education, 319-335-5373,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,