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Q and A: University courses available for leadership certification

September 24, 2019 Dennis Theobald, ATA Executive Secretary

Question: I’m now considering moving into a school leadership position. I know that there was a program last year for current school leaders to qualify for leadership certification, but what do I need to do now to qualify?

Answer: The short answer is that, as things currently stand, you are going to have to go back to school. My colleague Dr. Mark Swanson, co-ordinator of the ATA’s Professional Development program area, provides the following background and explanation.

On Sept. 1, a new Leadership Quality Standard (LQS) came into effect. In anticipation of the introduction of the LQS, the Government of Alberta has amended the Education Act, which also came into force on Sept. 1, requiring school principals to possess a leadership certificate. Again, it is important to note that principals are the only school leaders who are required to possess a leadership certificate.

Having introduced the certification requirement, the government had to decide what kind of a preparation program would be required to qualify for certification. About two years ago, the government enlisted faculties of education within the province that offer graduate programs in education to offer programming. Universities require time to develop new programs and to have them approved internally and by Alberta Advanced Education. A target date of Sept. 1 was established for university programming to be in place.

To have a supply of certificated individuals ready to fill vacant principal positions as they occurred in the latter part of the 2018/19 school year, the government decided it would be prudent to arrange for the provision of a time-limited, condensed program that would lead to certification. This past winter, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, through a grant from Alberta Education and working with other stakeholders, prepared and delivered a two-day inservice to school and jurisdiction leaders that would lead to certification. Eligibility for the program was limited by the terms of the grant to vice-principals, associate and assistant principals, and jurisdiction leaders including deputy, associate and assistant superintendents. Principals who were in their position in the 2018/19 school year were not required to take the inservice as they were “grandparented” and subsequently granted a certificate in recognition of their experience in the position. Many principals did, however, audit the inservice. The program has been offered 52 times in 12 locations throughout the province since February and more than 3,500 participants have completed it.

Moving forward, individuals interested in acquiring a leadership certificate in Alberta will have to do so through an accredited program at an Alberta university. To date, six faculties of education have developed programming and are now offering course work that will lead to leadership certification. Programs range from a continuing education approach to two stand-alone graduate courses to a master’s degree.

An important principle of the certification requirement is to avoid creating barriers to teachers who want to serve in the role of school principal. It is also not intended to restrict the hiring choices of boards, which may include hiring applicants who work in other provinces. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, the registrar is prepared to provide otherwise qualified applicants with a letter of authority that would provide them a period of time in which to complete the coursework necessary for certification.

The Association made representation to both the previous and current education ministers requesting the approval of alternative routes to leadership certification that would not entail the cost or time commitment of the post-secondary programs currently on offer. To date we have not received a favourable response, but we continue to press for options that would reduce the barriers to leadership certification. ❚

Questions for consideration in this ­column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at Barnett House (

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