The School District of Philadelphia Relies on Simulations to Develop Culturally Aware Leaders
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As the Director of Leadership Development at The School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest school system, Brandon Cummings is in charge of the Aspiring Principals’ Academy. According to Mr. Cummings, “The Aspiring Principals’ Academy is an intensive program to train assistant principals. Our goal is to create leaders capable of taking on any position, even in the most challenging environments. The Leadership Pathway Frameworks of The School District of Philadelphia serves as the foundation for the comprehensive curriculum academy students follow.” Their curriculum stands out from other school districts thanks to the utilization of SchoolSims simulations.

Mr. Cummings first discovered SchoolSims through the University of Pennsylvania. Soon after, he introduced the simulations to The School District of Philadelphia when he discovered they offered his future leaders a secure environment to practice making decisions in the present. His Aspiring Principals’ Academy received instruction on Equity-Centered Leadership issues with the assistance of the SchoolSims Library of Simulations. Mr. Cummings and The School District of Philadelphia want to have culturally aware leaders who can confidently claim that SchoolSims offers a framework for developing cultural awareness.

Since 2020, the Aspiring Principals’ Academy in The School District of Philadelphia has used the SchoolSims Library of Simulations. When the participants began going through the simulations, they discovered that they were enjoyable. It accurately represented the realities of everyday leadership by using real-world actors and events. Many participants would repeat the same simulation to see where different responses would lead them. The School District of Philadelphia chose SchoolSims because of the contrast between a conventional case study and merely being “fun,” as participants say.

Through reflection essays, Mr. Cummings gauges the success of the simulations for the Aspiring Principals’ Academy. Mr. Cummings assigns the prospective principals a specific number of simulations to complete in each course. After completing a simulation, they produce a reflection essay sharing what they learned from the simulation and how it applies to their work. “The conversations we have at these monthly meetings are what matter to us. These difficult conversations may be had from various perspectives thanks to the simulations. We want a place where we can talk openly and safely with our future leaders.”

The School District of Philadelphia has played 28 unique simulations over 200 times this past year. They use categories such as equity-focused, social-emotional issues, difficult conversations, and more. These simulations align with PSEL and NELP standards, which help school leaders improve students’ learning and well-being daily. “The simulations support PSEL and NELP professional standards because they express expectations to our aspiring school leaders about the job, characteristics, and values of influential educational leaders.”

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