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Master Principal Program Designation

Critical Considerations in Applying for Master Principal Designation

  • The Arkansas Leadership Academy in partnership with the Arkansas General Assembly wrote Act 44, which was signed into law by the governor, with a commitment to developing school leaders that utilize transformational and sustainable system change practices. The Academy concentrates on developing adult leadership and continuous learning as strategic drivers for improving statewide student learning and performance.

  • It is important to honor that complex work takes years to reach the higher levels of understanding and integrated use. You will want to consider applying when your skills have developed through the levels of the continuum and are consistently demonstrated at the 4) Integrating and 5) Innovating levels. This work will reflect a local culture of inquiry and a balanced system of assessment that values multiple indicators of impact on learning. You have systems of continual reflection providing evidence that transformative work is clearly connected to the positive impact on learning demonstrated in student growth/achievement. 

    In a nutshell – Do you have a variety of evidence that shows what you are doing is working?

  • ​1. Conduct a Self-Assessment

    Utilize the 2015 Arkansas Leadership Academy Performance Strands, Skills and Rubric to conduct a self-assessment of your consistent demonstration of the leadership skills with evidence that the effective practices are operating at scale in your school.

    With respect to the skills for each strand, reflect using the 5-point scale as follows:

    1. Beginning,  2. Emerging, 3. Applying, 4. Integrating, 5. Innovating

    A general description of principal performance at each point on this scale is provided in the Proficiency Rating Guide. Candidates applying for Master Principal designation would need to demonstrate proficiency at the 4-5 levels across all strands. 

    The Guide to Self-Assessment and Professional Learning has been developed to facilitate the self-assessment process. When using the guide, it is important for candidates to conduct an individual, feedback, and interactive self-assessment of their performance. Candidates should discuss the evidence of their performance with other principals, district administrators, and teachers to see if they would score the evidence the same way.

    Note the emphasis on evidence in the self-assessment process. Sound evidence of meeting the Academy’s leadership standards is required to complete the application for Master Principal designation. This is the evidence that should be shared with others during the self-assessment process. 

    When weighing the evidence collected in your self-assessment for each leadership performance strand, it is important to determine whether practices have taken to scale (Depth, Spread, Sustainability, and Ownership). In order to demonstrate the Master Principal level of proficiency you need evidence at a 4-5 level that practices have been taken to scale. Take the example of a K-5 elementary school where PLCs have been implemented. They are operating very effectively with respect to the expectations of All Things PLC at grades K-2, but the 3-5 PLCs have a ways to go. This is an example of an effective practice that has been implemented but has not been taken to scale with respect to depth, spread, sustainability, and ownership.

    When weighing the evidence that you have collected through your self-assessment, look at all of the evidence you have collected for a particular performance strand and ask yourself:

    1. Have highly effective level 4-5 practices been implemented with evidence of impact?
    2. Have these practices been taken to scale?

    If your response to both of these questions is a resounding YES across the five leadership performance strands, then you are ready to apply for designation.

    While all five leadership performances are important, Transforming Teaching and Learning is critical. When the Principal Performance section of your application is scored, the five sections detailing with each of the leadership performance strands are scored separately and then an overall score is assigned. The overall score is not the average of the five scores. The scorers review and discuss the five scores holistically in the context of the evidence that has been shared in the application. Then, they assign an overall score.

    Patience needs to be exercised when applying for designation. It tends to take 3-5 years to turn a school around to the extend that highly effective practices are being implemented at scale. When you know you have done a good job, and you know you have made many positive improvements in your school, it may be hard to resist applying for designation. Unfortunately, if you apply before these positive practices have been taken to scale, you set up yourself and your staff for disappointment. It is not unusual for the teams scoring the applications or conducting the site visits to comment – This person is on the right track and doing some wonderful things, but should have waited a year or two to bring these practices to scale before applying.

    2. Self-Assessment for the Student Performance Section

    Determine the evidence you have that demonstrates the actions you have taken have resulted in significant gains in student growth/achievement. What assessments and data sources do you utilize to inform your work?

    Impact! Impact! Impact! A Master Principal moves beyond a focus on action and implementation to the purpose of the action resulting in a focus on impact.

    The core question to ask in conducting this self-assessment is – As we have developed and implemented the skills in the 5 Performance areas:

    • Has this work resulted in significant gains in the student achievement/or growth?
    • What has been the impact?
    • How do we know?

    What evidence are you collecting that lets you know you are making progress?

    You will be identifying the challenges you face in your building and the way you have addressed these challenges resulting in a positive impact on learning.

    Who is growing? Who is not? What does that mean to you as a leader? How have you responded to this challenge? How do you identify and serve students as individuals? What student groups are you identifying and supporting? What has been the impact of this focus?

    You will share your Cycle of Inquiry/Reflection. What is your IDEAL state? What is your current reality? What actions have you implemented to close the GAP? How have you monitored growth and improved learning?

    Examples of possible assessments and data sources could include, but are not limited to the following: ACT Aspire, NWEA (MAP), STAR, I-Station, DIBELS, DRA, Interims with a beginning, middle, and end, ACT (11), School Quality Student Success indicator like chronic absences, Reading Achievement, Science Achievement, Science Growth, etc. …

    This application will represent your journey and your individual school’s system of data collection and reflection.

  • ​1. When you obtain your copy of the application directions, read them and follow them carefully. When preparing your application, please use the following:

    • Times New Roman 12-point font
    • Double-spaced narrative text
    • Single or double-spaced bullets within text
    • One-inch margins on all borders of the document (top, bottom, right, left)

    ​2. Completing your application is a writing assignment. Principals are expected to respond to each prompt clearly and succinctly using generally accepted grammar and punctuation rules. As the application is completed, it should be reviewed and edited carefully. The applicant may have a colleague or writing coach assist in editing the application.

    ​3. Usually an applicant has two pages to respond to a prompt. Use the two pages to provide a clear, in-depth response to the prompt that includes supporting evidence.

  • ​1. Include narration of your thinking/reflection. Describe the total process.

    When completing the description of the work, include the narration of your thinking to include the full cycle of inquiry/reflection as follows:

    • Why/purpose – What was the intended impact?
    • Who was involved and why?
    • How did you go about the implementation?
    • How did you measure impact along the way?
    • How did you respond to the data as you gathered and reflected upon it?
    • How did you utilize multiple types of data to inform you of progress?
    • What were your Next Steps as a result of this cycle of inquiry/reflection?

    Note: It is vital to include your reflection on the impact of the action vs. simply sharing the implementation of the action.


    1. If you share about the use of classroom walkthroughs, in addition to describing and discussing the implementation operationally, include how this action is tied to the school’s vision of quality teaching or the capacity building, professional learning, teacher reflection or evaluation processes. Include specifically how the classroom walkthrough process has impacted adult and student learning.
    2. It’s good that you met with stakeholders, but what is important is why they were meeting, the results of the meeting, and what happened next. Describing the total process of the learning and accomplished work/progress is what is being asked for in the responses to the prompts.
    3. When sharing about the implementation of a research-based practice in addition to noting that, “We instituted the CGI model across all grade levels” be sure to share why you selected CGI and how the quality of teaching and learning has been improved, including the evidence you collected to assess impact.
      Every prompt is asking you to describe what is making the difference in creating progress toward high-performance learning for all students and adults.

    ​2. Tell the Whole Story

    In order to score at the 4 or 5 levels, it is important to tell the whole story, not just the successes. Master Principals are able to share stories about getting intended results and stories about not getting intended results. All of these details are important. Sharing details about how the principal and staff used problem-solving to address the lack of progress and the actions/strategies used to address the need paints the authentic picture of the school’s processes. Scorers need to be able to understand the continuous learning that has been occurring. They need to understand what the principal and staff are currently working on to improve disparities and low performance, as well as, how they are finding new ways to solve their problems based on best practices, research and/or data.

    ​3. Involve Internal and External Stakeholders

    With the 2015 Leadership Performance Strands, Skills and Rubrics, it is impossible to get a 4 or 5 overall score without internal and external stakeholder involvement. Developing collaborative relationships and structures are in Strand 2, but the expectancy is that examples of stakeholder involvement will be evident throughout all strands.

    ​4. Clearly Articulate Your Role in the Process

    This focus is not meant to undermine the importance of collaboration, distributive leadership, and involvement of stakeholders. However, the designation process is to identify the principal’s high-impact leadership. To lead and manage a change process effectively, principals must be able to describe the pieces of the work and how the strategic pieces work together to get the desired results. There needs to be explicit language about the role or involvement of the principal in making these system changes.


  • As educators, we hold ourselves to a high standard, often that includes wanting to do things “right.” The Master Principal Designation Application process is meant to contribute to our continual growth as professionals by challenging us to think deeply about the thinking/reflection involved in everything we do. The way to complete the process “correctly” is to allow yourself to trust your individual process and then share it with gusto!

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Master Principal Program Director

Bradley Webber
(479) 616-8636