History of PRN
A Brief History of Principal Residency Network
Dr. Dennis Littky has been a reformer, school designer and the developer of leadership programs. In 1998, after the creation of the first MET School in Providence, RI. It was evident to Littky that he would also have to help develop a cadre of a new type of school leader.
According to Littky, “I watched teachers decide to pursue a principalship, then embark on many semesters of evening courses at a local college. Typically, these courses had little connection with the work they would be doing as principal. There was a gulf between theory and practice, between course-based preparation and the complexities of leading something consequential in the life of a school. I have no bone to pick with reading lists and theory. I just think that, on balance, people need a lot more practice in walking like a leader.”
In 1998 Littky gathered a group including Ted Sizer, Deborah Meier, Roland Barth, founder of the Harvard Principals Center; Jay Carlson, Dean of Lewis and Clark College; Elliot Washor and several practicing school principals including Tom McGuire. This group dreamed up a new model of school leadership training where aspiring principals do most of their learning in the schoolhouse under the guidance of an excellent mentor principal; the learning plan is personalized according to state standards, personal learning goals and school needs.
Aspiring Principals and Mentor Principals come together for network seminars and institutes to share, give feedback and learn together. Aspiring Principals are assessed through on- the-job evaluations by the mentor principal and other members of the school community and through exhibitions.
Seventeen years and over 300 Principals later; this once radical design is produced notable school leaders in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York City.
In June 2000, the Wallace Funds awarded Big Picture Company $1.26 million dollars to develop the Principal Residency Network. In 2001 Ann Duffy, associate commissioner of education in Massachusetts said that the Principal Residency Network has “influenced Massachusetts Department of Education’s rules governing administrator certification” and adds, “They are the benchmark. We are really looking hard to see what we can learn from the success they’ve had.” During the next six years, throughout a tumultuous period of change in the demands on public schools, Principal Residency Network sites have helped to train exemplary school leaders in urban and rural schools.
The program has operated out of the Center for Collaborative Education in concert with Northeastern University, in Rhode Island, out of EdPartners and the RI Department of Education in concert with Providence College and Johnson and Wales College, and in New Hampshire, Vermont and NYC at Keene State College.