Colorado has two main leadership licenses related to public schools. They are for principals and administrators. Specialized education and a certain amount of experience are required for each of these leadership positions. And applicants must also pass an exam.
A principal refers to a building-level administrator, such as one elementary school, one high school, or possibly a combined middle and high school located in the same facility. The term “administrator,” as it relates to Colorado public education, refers to a school district. So what is commonly referred to as a superintendent would have an administrator license.
Principals need 3 years of experience. This can be in a public or private school, and it can be at the elementary or secondary level. All applicants must also have at least a bachelor’s degree and complete an approved principal preparation educational program. An exam is also required. The PLACE exam is being phased out in favor of the Praxis. If the PLACE 80 is still being accepted, the minimum score is 220. Otherwise, you need to score at least 145 on the Praxis 5411.
Administrators do not have any teacher experience requirements at any level. But they must also have at least a bachelor’s degree plus completion of a school administration graduate program. As such, top administrators often have a Ed.D, Ph.D, or other high-level degree.
Administrator testing requirements include a score of at least 220 on the PLACE 81 or 145 on the Praxis 5411.
Both special education and gifted education directors must generally have a master’s degree or doctorate in their chosen field. Each of these director licenses also have specially approved programs. These programs are in addition to getting a master’s degree. However, if a candidate for a special education director license has a master’s degree in special education, then an approved program in school administration is also acceptable. Both director types require pre-licensing experience of at least 2 years. The experience must match the license type (work in a special or gifted education setting). Unlike the Colorado principal and administrator licenses, there is no exam for these 2 director licenses.
There is an exception to the master’s degree requirement for directors. This can be waived by the Department of Education if you can show sufficient knowledge and application of standards that is consistent with a specialist in the field. However, how you would prove this is not clear. It’s up to the licensing authority to make that decision.
All of these license applications have a fee of $90, as of July 2016. For initial licenses, you can find the online applications on the page below. The principal application is by itself. The administrator and director applications are found on the same page.