A significant feature of the Danforth Educational Leadership Program is an intensive, year-long internship supervised by an experienced mentor principal and/or program administrator. All Danforth students serve as an intern at at least one internship site during their time in the program; if possible, students are encouraged to serve as an intern in two different districts, community settings or school levels. A student may have more than one mentor, depending on the structure of their internship.

The internship is the applied knowledge aspect of the Danforth program and is closely integrated with content knowledge and skills developed through the learning strand modules and reflective seminars. Students prepare a detailed internship plan and document their hours and experiences in an internship log kept throughout the year. Many class assignments incorporate the authentic work performed at the internship site. Through their internships, students engage in the practical application of theory and learn about the problems, opportunities and dilemmas of educational leadership.

Internship Structure

The internship consists of a minimum of a cumulative 1,000 hours of tasks and responsibilities. Students seeking any of the following certificate options may elect to complete the internship at multiple sites.

  • Principal Certification Only: Minimum 1,000 school-based hours, supervised by school-level mentors
  • Program Administrator Certification Only: Minimum 1,000 district-based hours, supervised by district-level mentors
  • Principal and Program Administrator Certification: Minimum 1,360 hours (1,000 school-based hours and 360 district-based hours)

For any certificate, a minimum of 400 hours must be documented in instructional leadership areas (ISLLC Standard 2).

Time Commitment

Successful completion of the Danforth internship requires an ongoing commitment equal to about 40 percent of the workweek, which must be spent in authentic, instructionally based leadership work. Many participants accomplish this by serving full-time in a non-classroom role, such as dean of students, instructional coach, academic dean or – in the case of program administrator candidates – in a district-level position. It is not possible to complete the internship while working as a full-time classroom teacher; participants who are teaching must reduce their teaching load to no more than 60 percent. This flexibility is necessary for the intern to collaborate in meaningful ways with colleagues, teachers, students, families and district leaders to impact practice and improve student learning outcomes.

Finding an Internship

Selecting an internship site is one of the most important decisions a Danforth student will make. In some cases, students arrange for an internship within their current school or district, possibly with a mentor they already know and work with.

Many area districts offer assistance to employees seeking internship opportunities. When you decide to apply for the Danforth Educational Leadership Program, you are encouraged to contact your district as soon as possible so that district personnel can work with you to locate appropriate internship positions. If necessary, the Danforth program helps students connect with potential mentors and internship sites.

Mentors and Advocates

Danforth interns and their on-site mentors receive guidance on internship practices and requirements from a UW advocate, an individual who helps craft a rigorous, relevant internship aligned to the demands of the student's desired role or roles. Frequent discussion and interaction between the interns, mentors, UW advocates and Danforth program faculty provide opportunities for professional growth and renewal for all participants. See the Mentors and Advocates Resources page for more details.

I think one of the greatest things about the program is the internship. It allows you to learn by doing, hands-on learning that you can't receive through classes. For example, I have learned how to move away from just managing a building to helping facilitate our collaboration meetings with our instructional coach. Also, I have been able to go into classrooms with our principal to conduct observations and learning walks together, which allows us to work as a team and figure out how we can move our school forward through instruction.

Ra'Jeanna Conerly, Danforth 27

A lot of other programs, you do the coursework first and then you do your internship. I really liked that in Danforth you were doing the coursework and having class modules right in the midst of doing the [internship] work, so you can actually bring the real-time experience together and get coached through.

Mia Williams, Danforth 13