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School Leadership Academy Preliminary Administrative Services Credential Program

The School Leadership Academy program challenges candidates to critically examine contemporary issues confronting a variety of school systems. During the 15-month, online program, candidates draw from research, practice, and their own experiences as educators and work collaboratively to develop effective and sustainable strategies for school leadership. The curriculum is aligned to the California Administrators Content Expectations (CACE) and the California Administrators Performance Expectations (CAPE), which have the following focus areas:

  • Development and Implementation of a Shared Vision
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Management and Learning Environment
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Ethics and Integrity
  • External Context and Policy

Courses support candidates’ ability to master the CAPEs and effectively demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to address the challenges and opportunities in leading today’s diverse California’s TK-12 schools. Courses are taught by experienced and successful school administrators who have significant knowledge and skills in leading diverse systems.

The curriculum is also connected to the California Administrator Performance Assessment, also known as the CalAPA. The CalAPA is the embedded performance assessment that determines candidates’ ability to investigate, plan, act, and reflect with the mindset of equity-centered continuous improvement. Candidates are guided through their submissions to the CalAPA Leadership Cycles with coursework assignments that align to the content of the CalAPA.

The USC Rossier School Leadership Academy Preliminary Administrative Services Credential Program meets all requirements of the California Teachers Credentialing Commission (CTC). Successful completion of the program and all CA required prerequisites, including passing all three CalAPA Leadership Cycles, results in a recommendation to the CTC for the candidate’s Preliminary Administrative Services Credential (PASC) in the state of California.

The Equity Framework

Educational leaders face seemingly insurmountable challenges regarding equity on a daily basis. For these reasons, the USC SLAPASC Program is grounded in an Equity Framework. Courses are designed and led through this Equity Framework and candidates are expected to demonstrate these proficiencies, which include facilitating Interpersonal Dynamics, coordinating Committed Interdependent Educational Partners, and setting Conditions for Optimal Learning.

Interpersonal Dynamics: Our candidates navigate their own identities through introspective awareness and mindfulness in their interpersonal relationships. They advocate for the restoration of individual, group, and community relationships damaged by trauma, violence, and neglect.

Committed Interdependent Educational Partners: Our candidates empower marginalized groups to become committed, interdependent educational partners in the co-construction of school environments. They analyze multiple data sets to uncover disparities in systems and structures. They collaborate within school systems to confront existing dominant stories.

Conditions for Optimal Learning: Our candidates develop inclusive systems of belonging and mattering that support conditions for optimal learning. They dedicate sufficient time for data analysis and collective decision-making which uplifts varying marginalized perspectives.

Program Goals

With the Equity Framework as the foundation, the USC School Leadership Academy PASC Program includes program goals that align to California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Administrative Services Credential Program Standards. These program goals guide course content and ensure that our candidates become highly effective leaders prepared to engage with and honor diverse communities and address the most intractable educational equity challenges facing today’s TK-12 systems. By the end of the School Leadership Academy PASC program, candidates will demonstrate the following program goals:


  • Demonstrate capacity to collaboratively lead instructional change by engaging in cultural and historical systems analysis.
  • Build adaptive leadership skills in the context of an interconnected culturally, racially and linguistically diverse community.
  • Engage in ongoing self-reflection of beliefs, values, and expectations and how that intersectionality influences leadership.
  • Lead and implement effective promising practices to eliminate opportunity gaps.
  • Evaluate school-wide and subgroup data systems to identify and address inequities in race, ethnicity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Leverage policies and practices to coordinate partnerships that benefit the specific goals and needs of the school community.

The School Leadership Academy is designed for individuals who have a passion for leadership and are committed to advancing educational equity. To apply for the program, educators must meet the following requirements:

  1. Hold a Clear Teaching or Pupil Personnel Services Credential
  2. Have at least four years of professional full-time experience in a public school, nonpublic school, or private school of equivalent status located in California or another state, or a combination of experience earned in California and another state. (At the culmination of the program, you will need verification of five years of full-time experience to qualify for the Preliminary Administrative Services Credential)
  3. Satisfy the Basic Skills Requirement as required by the State of California (CL-667)

The total cost of tuition for the School Leadership Academy is $10,000. Upon registering, you will be asked to secure your space with a $500 non-refundable deposit. The remaining $9500 balance is due before the start of the term. As a Continuing Education Program, the School Leadership Academy does not qualify for federal financial aid. Candidates may apply for a low cost educational certificate loan from the USC Credit Union. Information on the Certificate Program Loan can be found here.

January 2024 Start

SLA Jan Cohort Schedule

August 2024 Start

SLA Aug cohort schedule


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. You can download a PDF with application instructions here: 

Application Instructions Download

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 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

June 2024

Start Date

August 2024

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Dr. Marie Dacumos

Program Administrator