Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Paul R. Erickson

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Second Advisor

James R. Bliss

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Third Advisor

Sarah Y. Tsiang

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


In this era of expectation that school principals will lead continuous improvement initiatives in their schools, this study investigates if principals receive instruction in continuous improvement concepts, methods, and tools through their formal principal certification program. This research evaluates the evolution of school principal preparation programs in Kentucky over the period from 1994 to 2014, a time of great change in academic expectations and accountability in American public schools. Using the report of a national study begun in 1975, Preparatory Programs for Educational Administrators in the United States (Silver and Spuck, 1978), as a baseline, accredited principal preparations programs in Kentucky and their published content were compared against the findings from this early study to determine if program content had evolved and, if so, in what ways. Snapshots of Kentucky programs and content were collected from the Kentucky Department of Education and available public documents for the years 1994, 2004, and 2014. Results of this literature search were supplemented with results from a statewide online survey of Kentucky middle school principals concerning their recollections of their principal preparation journey. The results of this online survey were further buttressed with results of personal interviews with ten practicing Kentucky middle school principals randomly selected from across the state. Finally, the principal preparation programs from a sample of 16 well-known colleges of education from universities outside of Kentucky were studied to compare those programs against current Kentucky programs. The intent of this comparison was to gain some perspective as to whether Kentucky programs were or were not representative of other programs across the country. If they were not, then perhaps some insight could be gained concerning the merits or failings of the differences. The results of this research suggest that, changed preparation program accreditation standards and embraced Interstate School Leader Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards notwithstanding, approximately one third to one half of the core content of principal preparation programs in Kentucky has changed little in 20 years. Also, unchanged since the time of the 1978 study report, the vast majority of students pursuing principal credentials today are fulltime teachers, pursuing a part-time credentialing program, and their number one reason for picking a particular institution is its proximity to home. New or significantly enhanced content over this period includes coursework in instructional leadership, curricular leadership, classroom assessment, and collaboration with stakeholders, with an overarching emphasis on ethics and equity in the educational endeavor. A significant increase in hands-on requirements in the form internships and embedded field work, with a culminating capstone project are also recent areas of change. Kentucky's statutory prerequisite requirement's for preparation program application appear to be among the most stringent entry requirements in the nation. Further, Kentucky's statutory, detailed institutional accreditation requirements also appear to be unique among states. Results of this study suggest that continuous improvement concepts, methods, and tools are not taught or studied in a meaningful way in principal certification programs in Kentucky or in academic institutions across the United States. This paper concludes with suggestions for further investigation of possible structural changes to principal preparation programs to better prepare principals for success in this era of expectation of continuous improvement in student learning.