Pathways to School Leadership

We are devoted to a system of growth and support for aspiring leaders.

Through Lead in Denver, Denver Public Schools (DPS) is able to offer multiple distinct leadership preparation programs, which provide aspiring school leaders the opportunity to develop alongside an experienced and successful principal. Whether you are interested in becoming a principal or assistant principal in a traditional neighborhood school, an innovation status school or a charter school program, our pathway programs can help you achieve your goals. The programs are designed to consistently prepare new leaders for DPS leadership roles by offering course content that is aligned to our School Leadership Framework while supporting development that meets the aspiring leader’s career goals.

The programs fall under three categories – non-licensure residencies, alternative licensure programs and traditional licensure programs. To learn more about each program, follow the links below or check out the pathways comparison one-pager. To view a diagram of the process for becoming a school leader at DPS, click here.

Alternative Licensure Programs

Denver Lead Today – Principal Licensure Program*

Through Denver Lead Today, highly qualified leaders from any sector can achieve alternative licensure.  Participants engage in on-the-job learning experiences, leadership mentoring, a personalized professional learning plan and coursework that is delivered through a series of classes taught by experienced DPS leaders. Candidates come to the program with a set of leadership experiences and skills that have prepared them to assume a leadership role in a DPS school, achieve licensure within three years and impact student achievement on day one. Learn More

Traditional Licensure Programs

University of Denver Morgridge College of Education – Educational Leadership & Policy Studies*

DU offers two pathways to principal certification in partnership with DPS – the Ritchie Program for School Leaders (Ritchie) and Executive Leadership for Successful Schools (ELSS). Both programs immerse students in graduate-level coursework and project-based learning focused on innovation, the use of data and values-based leadership. DU’s programs are delivered in two internship models: a fulltime, one-year internship (Ritchie) and a job-embedded internship that allows participants to remain in their current roles (ELSS). Participants of each program earn credits that can be applied towards a Master’s Degree in educational leadership and policy studies. Learn More

University of Colorado Denver – ALPS Principal Licensure Program

The DPS-ALPS Principal Licensure Program is an opportunity for aspiring leaders to prepare for licensure through a program focused on training leaders to succeed in schools with high percentages of English language learners. Coursework is designed to simulate the actual challenges faced by principals and is delivered through a combination of face-to-face and online sessions coupled with field-based clinical practice. This program also offers candidates credits that can be applied towards a Master’s or Doctorate degree. Learn More

Non-licensure residencies:

Learn to Lead – Denver Principal Residency*

Learn to Lead is specifically designed for current DPS leaders interested in strengthening and developing knowledge and skills related to the role of a school principal.  Residents work alongside the school’s principal and take on leadership responsibilities. This is designed for experienced education leaders to develop the competencies expected of principals in DPS. Learn More

* Program includes internship, residency or fellowship


“This was an opportunity to refine my leadership skills in a really targeted area, especially as it relates to the DPS School Leadership Framework. It puts people around you who can support you.”

Nick Dawkins, Principal, Manual High School

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