About the Academy

There are no high-performing schools without great principals.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Despite the importance of the principalship and the demands that are placed on principals today, relatively few principals receive ongoing professional development that enhances their ability to lead schools to high performance. The Minnesota Principals Academy fills that gap by bringing to Minnesota the research-based program of the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL), an initiative of the Washington, D.C.-based National Center on Education and the Economy. The NISL executive development program was developed over six years with major support from national foundations and is being used to provide leadership development for school principals nationwide.

Using the NISL program, the Minnesota Principals Academy enables cohorts of practicing principals to put leadership best practices from education, business, military, and other fields to work on behalf of their students and schools. Delivered in two and three-day segments over the course of one year, the curriculum combines face-to-face instruction in workshops, seminars, and study groups with interactive Web-based learning. 

The Minnesota Principals Academy was created in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association, the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, and the University of Minnesota. Participant registration fees are supported through funding from the Minnesota Legislature and participant districts. Since 2013, the Academy has been based in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development (OLPD) in the College of Education and Human Development. OLPD adds content created and led by University of Minnesota faculty:

  • One new day on Instructional Practices for Special Education and ELL
  • One new day on Teacher Evaluation
  • Two new days on Community Engagement, presented in partnership with the U of M’s Center for Integrative Leadership
  • Guest lecturers from across CEHD

School leaders who successfully complete the Academy and are subsequently admitted to and enroll in an OLPD doctoral program at the University of Minnesota will have 12 elective academic credits waived.

  • In an independent evaluation, 81% of participants said the Principals Academy was ‘excellent’ compared to other leadership development programs, and all said it changed their professional practice (CAREI).
  • Minnesota principals reported in an independent survey that assistance in driving change in their schools is the #1 reason they would participate in a leadership development program (CSOM).

Download Information Sheet [PDF]

Minnesota Principals Academy In the Media

The Power of Principals
(CEHD Connect magazine, April 2019)
“To me, the most beautiful part of this professional development is our ability to reflect, discuss, and develop our district as a system. We are one united team moving our students forward.”


Leaders Empowering Leaders
(Sourcewell Well Connected magazine, Fall/Winter 2018)
“This is intense professional development for our principals … the learning is relevant and robust, focused on the critical importance of principals being instructional leaders in order to make a difference in student achievement.”


Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Principal Academy Is Rare Training Opportunity for Minnesota School Leaders 
(Grand Forks Herald, October 2015)
“Principals rarely get an opportunity to attend professional development… Staff and teachers benefit by adopting the new research principals learn according to the needs of their schools, and students benefit by being exposed to the most current and relevant instructional strategies.”