Teacher with students

School Leadership Academy Preliminary Administrative Services Credential

The School Leadership Academy Preliminary Administrative Services Credential is designed for teachers, counselors, and other educational professionals ready to take on administrative and leadership positions at the school site level. 

You will learn frameworks for problem-solving, how to use data to make decisions, how to supervise and evaluate teaching and learning, how to navigate political, cultural and community relations to get things done, how to use social media to reach your stakeholders and how to think entrepreneurially in developing school resources. All of this is put into the application through a two-term fieldwork placement grounded in your school site.

This fully online program is led by experienced and successful school administrators who guide you through the 15-month program in your course work and support you in your fieldwork as well.

California Administrators Performance Assessment

Since May of 2018, all CTC approved preliminary administrative credential programs must participate in the California Administrators Performance Assessment (CalAPA). This is a required assessment. Through the CalAPA, candidates demonstrate the knowledge and skills tied to the California Administrators Performance Expectations (CAPE), the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (CPSL), and the California Administrators Content Expectations (CACE) in order to receive the Preliminary Administrative Credential and serve as a school leader. Focusing on instructional leadership and school improvement leadership, the CalAPA is designed to assess a candidate’s preparedness prior to entering a school as an administrator.


Curriculum Overview

  • Apply the concepts of leadership to solve problems in your K-12 setting (EDUC 533x)
  • Implement a vision that reflects the diversity of people, cultures, and histories in your context (EDUC 537x)
  • Use data to promote increasingly effective practices to benefit student outcomes (EDUC 548x)
  • Evaluate and support instruction using principles derived from learning theory and instructional leadership (EDUC 549x)
  • Leverage the support of stakeholders to advance a school’s vision with innovative thinking (EDUC 538x)
  • Apply communication strategies to ensure stakeholders are engaged with school-wide goals (EDUC 643x)
  • Develop skills necessary to evaluate and support personnel, protocols, programs, and school operations (EDUC 641x)
  • Participate in real-world problem-solving and develop expertise during guided Fieldwork (EDUC 648x and EDUC 649x)


To apply the concepts taught in the School Leadership Academy, each participant will take on an apprenticeship starting in the second term of coursework. All of the fieldwork learning activities are driven by the needs of the practicing administrator in the field and align with ISLLC, CTC, and CPSEL standards. Building on this solid curriculum base, your tailored apprenticeship experience is guided by a member of the faculty team, the USC Fieldwork Coordinator, who coordinates with your site supervisor to ensure satisfactory completion of program standards using formative assessments. Participants are responsible for identifying a Site Supervisor and completing 200 hours of fieldwork over the course of the final two semesters

Tuition for the School Leadership Academy is $10,000. When registering, you will be charged the non-refundable $500 deposit. 

Participant Qualifications:

  • Hold a valid clear teaching OR PPS credential
  • Verify a minimum of three-and-a-half (3 1/2) years of professional, full-time experience (see note below)
  • Signed and dated letter of recommendation from your site administrator/evaluator and/or the individual who will oversee your two semesters of fieldwork*

*Successful completion of the School Leadership Academy requires 200 hours of fieldwork experience. The fieldwork experiences are overseen by your school site administrator who will serve as your site supervisor and who is approved by USC’s fieldwork coordinator. The site administrator who will serve as your site supervisor is required to hold a clear California Administrative Services Credential.

Note: In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Preliminary Administrative Services Credential from the CTC, you must have verification of five years of full-time, credentialed experience. You must verify your years of experience from your current and/or previous employer by submitting a document or documents signed by the HR administrator on district or school letterhead certifying five years of full-time employment. These do not have to be consecutive years of employment. You may start the School Leadership Academy with no fewer than three-and-a-half years of full-time credentialed experience, so that upon completion of the program, you have the requisite five years of credentialed experience. If you have fewer than five years of full-time credentialed experience upon completion of the program, you will have to wait until you have reached the five-year mark before USC can recommend you to the CTC.

The School Leadership Academy starts each January. Students take two, 2-hour classes per term (two nights per week), plus field work beginning in semester two. Space is limited; admission is on a rolling basis with a maximum of 30 students per cohort. All applicants will be interviewed before being admitted.


Spring Start

Term 1
EDUC 537x: Leading with Community and Culture in Context
EDUC 548x: Data Driven Leadership
Summer Term
EDUC 538x: Entrepreneurial School Leadership
EDUC 643x: Advancing Community Support through Social Media
Term 2
EDUC 533x: School Leadership:Theory and Practice
EDUC 641x: Leading with Human Capital within the Organization
EDUC 648x: Apprenticeship in School Administration and Leadership
Term 3
EDUC 549x: Supervising Instruction to Optimize Learning
EDUC 649x: Apprenticeship in School Administration and Leadership


Continuing Education Units (CEUs) issued by the USC Rossier School of Education align with the Carnegie Continuing Education Unit Credits. Every 10 hours of learning equals one CEU. A student who successfully completes the program earns 35.5 CEUs which represents 350-400 hours of learning. A three (3) unit semester graduate credit course is equal to 45 hours of learning for comparison. Individual districts determine how they will apply CEU credit. If you intend to use CEUs towards your salary points, step credit, etc., notify your HR department in advance of your enrolling in the credential program to be sure it is authorized.

Applications for the 2024 Spring Cohort will be accepted April 1 - November 15 or until the Cohort reaches 30 candidates. Candidates are encouraged to apply early.

The online application consists of:

  1. $25 non-refundable and non-transferable application fee
  2. Three short, required application essays
  3. A copy of your current valid credential
  4. Your current professional resume
  5. Copy of your current teaching and/or PPS credential
  6. One letter of recommendation from your director, supervisor/evaluator
  7. Phone interview (30 min) following satisfactory review of your application

What is the California Administrative Services Credential?

This is the credential that allows you to lead and be responsible for evaluating personnel and instructional programs in California. With it, not only can you serve as a school site or district leader, but you can also develop instructional programs, hire and train personnel, evaluate and supervise staff and faculty, manage fiscal services, oversee school operations, and develop student support services.
Earning the Administrative Services Credential is a two-step process. First, you are required to earn your preliminary administrative services credential. This program is designed to help you achieve that. Second, once you are in an administrative position, you will be required to clear your administrative credential.


What are my career options if I earn the credential?

There are many career paths available with the administrative services credential. You can use your credential to work as an assistant principal or principal leveraging your role impacting a school site. You could aim for a district position or a director overseeing areas such as counseling, educational services, special education or curriculum and instruction.

View the videos below to hear the career paths from three California Administrative Services Credential holders:


How do I know if earning the credential is the right path for me? 

Maybe you’ve thought about having a greater impact on your community beyond your classroom. Maybe you see yourself transforming the lives of all students—not just those in your classroom. Maybe you feel ready for the next challenge in your career. Maybe you’ve already taken on leadership roles at your site and recognize your leadership potential. There are many reasons why this credential may be your next step.

View the videos below about the motivations of three California Administrative Services Credential holders:

Still not sure if the California Administrative Services Credential fits into your career plans? We’re happy to help guide you through your choices and help you decide if this is the right path for you. Contact us by email at keo@rossier.usc.edu.


What are the requirements to earn the preliminary credential?

To be eligible for the Preliminary Administrative Credential, you must have five years of verified experience as a credentialed professional. You can be credentialed as a teacher, a counselor, librarian, and/or health or rehab services professional. If you are a teacher, you must have your clear teaching credential to be eligible for the Preliminary Administrative Credential.


How can I earn the credential?

You can earn your Preliminary Credential in three different ways:

  1. Complete a CTC-approved preparation program in administrative services and the 3 CalAPA cycle assessments, resulting in a formal recommendation by the program provider*
  2. Complete a one year CTC-approved intern program*
  3. Achieve a passing score on the California Preliminary Administrative Credential Examination Program (CPACE)

* You can find Preparation and Intern program providers by using the CTC’s dashboard

View the videos below to hear about the paths of three California Administrative Services Credential holders took to earn their credential:


What happens after I earn my Preliminary Administrative Services Credential? 

After earning the Preliminary Administrative Services Credential, you are ready to apply for jobs that require this credential. Once you’re in that role, you will plan how you will earn your Clear Administrative Credential , often in the district where you’ve taken the position. To be eligible for your Clear Administrative Credential, you must:

  • Possess a valid Preliminary Administrative Services Credential
  • Verify a minimum of two years of successful experience in a full-time administrative position in a California school
  • Complete a CTC-approved Administrative Services Induction Program

*  You can find Induction Program providers by using the CTC’s dashboard


Where can I learn more about Preliminary Administrative Services Credential?

  • Looking for detailed information about the credential, its history and its regulations? Check out the CTC’s documentation here.
  • Looking for information and advice about your own context, how the credential might fit with your career plans, and what your options are? Contact us at any time – we’re here to help guide you through this process.

What is the CalAPA?

Since 2018, all CTC approved preliminary administrative credential programs must participate in the California Administrators Performance Assessment (CalAPA). This is a required assessment. Through the CalAPA, candidates demonstrate the knowledge and skills tied to the California Administrators Performance Expectations (CAPE), the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (CPSL), and the California Administrators Content Expectations (CACE) in order to receive the Preliminary Administrative Credential and serve as a school leader. Focusing on instructional leadership and school improvement leadership, the CalAPA is designed to assess a candidate’s preparedness prior to entering a school as an administrator.


How do I sign up?

To sign up for the CalAPA, you will create an account in CTC’s online system managed by Pearson. Details will be provided early in the program regarding how to register.


What is the assessment like?

The CalAPA consists of three leadership cycles, each requiring you to investigate, plan, act, and reflect. School Leadership Academy coursework in three specific courses aligns with these assessments. The cycles include:

  • Cycle 1: Analyzing Data to Inform School Improvement and Promote Equity (aligns with EDUC537x)
  • Cycle 2: Facilitating Communities of Practice (aligns with EDUC641x)
  • Cycle 3: Supporting Teacher Growth (aligns with EDUC549x)

Details regarding each of the cycles and their periodic updates in D2L (our learning management system) and at the CTC site online.


What do I have to submit?

Submitted work will include evidence of leadership practice for each section in the form of written narratives and videos. You are responsible for having the appropriate materials and equipment to complete the tasks; this includes video recording equipment such as a cell phone or video camera. All final submissions are submitted to the online platform managed by Pearson and must be submitted within 18 months of when you register. Please save all submissions in a safe place should you need to access them again; once uploaded, you will not be able to retrieve nor access your submissions from the Pearson system.


When do I have to submit each cycle?

Since each cycle is built into School Leadership Academy coursework, you will be submitting cycle assignments throughout the term of that specific cycle; the goal is that by the time you finish the program, you will have completed all three leadership cycles, a requirement to be recommended to the CTC.


What does my school site need to know?

Your school site needs to know that you are working toward your Preliminary Administrative Credential and will be taking the required CalAPA. The leadership cycles require you to participate in school activities, access and gather data, plan and conduct meetings, observe and coach teachers, and identify and solve pressing problems of practice. You will need to speak with your school’s leaders about access to data, colleagues, and information related to instructional leadership and school improvement. Be sure to be upfront with school leadership and plan early to avoid any potential conflicts. Share the details of the leadership cycles, as they may have ways in which to support you.

You may need to secure a consent form for any video you provide that includes minors. Please check with your school site and district regarding specific consent policies and forms.


Can I get help on the leadership cycles?

There are very specific guidelines regarding ways in which instructors can offer guidance and assistance. You will have access to the rubrics, templates and exemplars provided by the CTC, and time during coursework to collaborate with your peers to receive coaching. Instructors are allowed to provide coaching, yet cannot assess your work against the CalAPA rubrics, edit your work, nor critique drafts. They can, however, make recommendations, explain the tasks, ask and answer questions, check in with your progress, and review any resources available to you.

There are several resources available to you online including templates, guides, and how-to videos. It is recommended that you review these resources prior to beginning the leadership cycles.


Who assesses my submissions?

Teams of trained educators located throughout California assess your submissions. Assessors hold administrative credentials, have experience as school leaders, and have undergone training through CalAPA.

How are the leadership cycles scored?

After final submission, your work will be assessed and scored based on the CalAPA rubrics. You must pass each of the Leadership Cycles within 18 months of registration. If you do not receive a passing score, you must make the necessary revisions and resubmit. You will be required to pay for that cycle submission again.


How are my CalAPA submissions affected if I choose to defer my enrollment?

If you elect to defer your enrollment to a future cohort due to a life-changing event, the time, support, and fees required to complete the CalAPA leadership cycles may be negatively impacted. You still must complete the leadership cycles within 18 months of your original registration for the cycles. You may also need to pay additional fees to retake and/or extend time to complete and pass the CalAPA.


Is there a fee?

There is an additional fee payable to the CTC of $125 for Cycle 1, $150 for cycle 2, and $150 for cycle 3 for a total of $425. This fee is separate from your USC School Leadership Academy program fee, and is payable to CTC through Pearson.
Find out more about the CalAPA

Program Details

Degree Awarded


Estimated Length

15 months



Program Cost



  • Online

Next Deadline

November 2023

Start Date

January 2024

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Marie Dacumos

Dr. Marie Dacumos

Program Administrator