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Lead for Delaware offers alternative certification for First State principals

Delaware Department of Education

Teach for America has historically run a two-year teacher training program, preparing teachers to work specifically in schools with a high population of low-income families.


But last year, with approval from the State Board of Education, Delaware’s chapter of Teach for America added to that mission - launching an alternative principal certification program.


Delaware state regulations changed a few years ago to permit  alternative principal certification programs, allowing organizations other than universities to run programs certifying principals.


The first two rounds of Lead for Delaware’s program were approved by the state’s Secretary of Education last October. The first year focuses on professional development and coursework, but the second year focuses more on clinical experience.

Teach for America in Delaware is the first regional office in the country to launch a principal certification program.

Senior Managing Director Jeremy Grant-Skinner says the alternative principal certification program called Lead for Delaware resulted from a recognized need for stronger leadership in Delaware’s schools.


“Research for at least a couple of decades says consistently that outside of the teachers, the most important factor affecting student achievement within schools is the school leader," he said.


He emphasized the impact principals can have on teachers.


“Things that principals do for the teachers make such a difference for the teachers. So the best principals are able to attract, are able to provide really great support for, and are able to keep really great teachers over the long term.”

And he adds that of the nine aspiring principals in the first two groups, two-thirds are people of color.

In Delaware, while students of color representing multiple ethnicities make up half the student population, minorities account for less than one-third of Delaware’s principals.


Bethelehem Yirga is currently serving as the Dean of Students at Great Oaks Charter School, and will be starting the program this month.


“I transitioned into my role now at the Great Oaks Charter School and applied for the Lead for Delaware program," she said. "Through a really rigorous - and really enjoyable - interview process where I got to tell stories about my experiences and meet incredible other leaders in the area, I was chosen for the second cohort.”


The first two groups will spend a week of international training in London from June 30 – July 6.  


Teacher for America will seek approval from the State Board of Education for additional rounds of Lead for Delaware training next fall, and are presenting an update on the program Thursday June 16.

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