NAU’s American Indian School Leadership program earns $1.2 million DOE grant award

A Northern Arizona University program that aims to more than triple the number of American Indians serving as principals recently received a $1.2 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue its work.

The program, American Indian School Leadership or AISL, is a 36 credit hour master’s in Educational Leadership designed to prepare professionals specifically for Indian school leadership. The curriculum is organized to prepare principals to lead improved instruction and school change, not just manage programs and buildings.

“We know from research that you can’t have quality schools when you have high levels of administrative turnover,” said Joseph Martin, professor and director of the AISL program. “Quality administrative leadership contributes as much to student achievement as quality teaching.”

The AISL program offers American Indian teachers the opportunity to earn their master’s degree in school administration without having to leave their jobs. The program pays the tuition and other expenses of participants who commit to serving in the role of principal in an Indian-serving school for four years.

The program seeks to place 24 new American Indian principals by 2019. The new grant will allow the College of Education at NAU to expand the current AISL program which currently has 26 participants of which 12 will graduate in December, and another 14 by May 2017, said Michael Schwanenberger, chair of the Educational Leadership Department.

AISL participants take one class per semester including two classes during the summer sessions and are mentored by an experienced administrator. During the four-year period, they will attend several training conferences including a seminar at NAU campus.

For details about joining the program, contact Program Coordinator Savannah Sydney at or (928) 523-8033.