The state of Mississippi requires all school administrators to be licensed, and to pass a qualifying exam called the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA). The test covers the basic educational knowledge and core competencies needed to effectively lead a school or school district.
A passing score on the SLLA is required to obtain an entry-level, standard career level, or non-practicing administrative license in the state, or to achieve the specialist-level Class AAA credential in administration. Jobs in K-12 schools that that require administrative licensure include:
- Assistant Principal
- Assistant Coordinator
Administrative licensure is also required for school district administrators and superintendents.
SLLA Components and Process
The four-hour exam consists of two parts. The first features 100 multiple-choice questions that must be completed in 2 hours and 20 minutes. The second focuses on seven essay questions, to be completed in 1 hour and 40 minutes. The exam is designed to test an educator's knowledge and understanding of school administration, as well as his or her responses to situations administrators typically encounter.
The SLLA is based on Interstate School Leaders License Consortium Standards that define best practices for K-12 school campuses. According to the standards, effective school leadership is demonstrated through:
- Shared vision for learning.
- School culture and instructional programs conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.
- Effective management of the organization, operation and resources for a safe, efficient and effective learning environment.
- Collaboration with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.
- Acting with integrity and fairness in an ethical manner.
- Understanding, responding to and influencing the political, social, legal and cultural context of the educational environment.
The Educational Testing Service offers the SLLA at regular intervals throughout the year, and registration is available online, by phone or by mail. The fee for the test is $425, with post-registration date or location changes for an additional charge. A valid government-issued photo ID is required to enter the testing room, and no phones or assistive electronics are allowed during the exam. It is possible to retake the test (at full price) as long as it has been 21 days since the last attempt.
Scoring and Certification
Certification requirements for administrators vary by state and U.S. territory. Each has its own licensure standards, including acceptable SLLA scores. Requirements can also change year to year, so it's important to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.
Mississippi currently requires a minimum score of 169 on the SLLA, but new rules issued by the state Department of Education in May will soon change that standard. Those who take the exam from September 2018 forward will only need a score of 151 to pass.
If your administrative career could eventually take you beyond Mississippi, note the passing SLLA scores required for licensure in the following U.S. states and territories:
- 156 -- U.S. Virgin Islands
- 160 -- Kentucky, Tennessee
- 163 -- Arkansas, District of Columbia, Guam, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia
- 165 -- Kansas, Maryland
- 166 -- Louisiana, Rhode Island
States that don't accept SLLA scores for licensure usually require administrative candidates to pass a different certification exam designated by the state's primary education agency.
Alternatives to the SLLA
Students enrolled in the online Education Specialist in Educational Leadership -- K-12 Administration program at Mississippi College must have a passing grade on the SLLA in Mississippi (or the licensure exam in their state) in order to graduate. Students who don't pass the exam after several tries, or who don't need to pursue specialist-level Mississippi licensure in order to achieve their career goals, do have another option, however. They can switch to the Curriculum & Instruction track in Educational Leadership without missing a beat.
The C&I track offers another professional path to school leadership, one focused on the creative and strategic aspects of administration. It also features the same core and anchor courses as K-12 Administration, but does not require the SLLA. Educators with a passion for instructional design, curriculum planning, data and analytics will find the C&I track provides them with a range of new perspectives on student engagement and the future of learning.
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