Program Standard 5: Questions and Answers

What are the CPSEL?

The California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL) identify what an administrator must know and be able to do in order to demonstrate effective and sustained leadership. In doing this, these standards serve as a foundation for administrator preparation, induction, development, professional learning, and evaluation in California. Taken together, they describe the critical areas for developing and supporting administrators to become effective education leaders over the course of their careers. While many educators take on leadership roles, the CPSEL feature expectations for individuals serving in formal administrator positions. 

The CPSEL are also known as Program Standard 5 for the Administrative Services Credential. To be approved, induction programs must address the CPSEL in their curriculum and candidate assessment plans. Candidates in the induction program must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the CPSEL to be recommended for clear certification.

How were the CPSEL developed and updated?

The original CPSEL were developed through a collaboration of California education leaders and have been a part of the California's education administrator preparation continuum since 2001. While widely used since their inception, changes in the California education context led to the call by the education community to revise the standards to reflect updated perspectives on teaching and learning. In October 2013, the Commission of Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and the California Department of Education (CDE) jointly convened a panel charged with updating the CPSEL, as recommended in the state's Educator Excellence task force report, Greatness by Design (2012). After reviewing the original CPSEL, research studies, professional literature, examples of national, state, and district standards for administrators, as well as the newly adopted content and performance expectations for preliminary administrator certification, the CPSEL Update Panel drafted the "refreshed" set of CPSEL. The draft underwent review by the Commission and two surveys soliciting public comment. The CTC approved the updated CPSEL in February 2014.

How are the CPSEL used in the CASC induction programs?

California's induction programs provide a bridge between knowing the research, skills, and policies behind effective educational administration and leadership performance in an education community focused on continuous growth and student achievement. Approved CASC programs are expected to directly use the CPSEL as a uniform guide for what a candidate should know and be able to do.

The CPSEL are used in each of the CASC's major professional learning components - coaching, professional development, assessment and the Individual Induction Plan.

Program Standard: ASC Clear Induction, from Program Handbook, June 2014

1. Program Design and Rationale p. 28
The program design provides multiple opportunities for candidates to demonstrate growth and competence in the CPSEL outlined in Standard 5 ASC Induction Program Standards.
Assessment of candidate competence is grounded in the proficiencies expressed in Standard 5.
2. Program Collaboration, Communication and Coordination p. 28The induction program individualizes professional learning opportunities for each candidate and includes program, employer, partner and high quality professional learning approved by the provider, in support of Standard 5 (CPSEL) outcomes.
3. Selection and Training of Coaches pp. 28-29Coaches receive initial training prior to being assigned to a candidate. Initial training includes the development of knowledge and skills of: coaching, goal setting, use of appropriate coaching instruments, and processes of formative and summative assessment designed to support candidate growth in leadership competencies outlined in Standard 5 (CPSEL).
4A. The Individual Induction Plan (IIP) p. 29The program ensures that the IIP identifies specific performance outcomes and data to be collected to certify demonstration of candidate proficiency in the areas of leadership articulated in Standard 5 of the ASC Induction Program Standards.
4B. Coaching p. 30The coaching process is one that requires confidential coach-candidate collaboration . and goal setting, that intertwines job-embedded leadership performance with Standard 5 (CPSEL) program outcomes; . and documentation of growth and attainment of Category III, Standard 5 program outcomes.
4C. Professional Development p. 30All professional development is designed to support the application and demonstration of program competence outcomes articulated in Standard 5 (CPSEL) of the ASC Induction Program Standards.
4D. Assessment pp. 30-31Assessment tools such as rubric based scales, are based on outcomes from Standard 5 of the Administrative Services Credential Induction Program Standards, identified by the program to measure leadership performance, and used to determine candidate growth and competence.
The initial induction assessment is designed to measure a candidate's entry-level competence in each of the program-selected outcomes from Standard 5 of the ASC Induction Program Standards as baseline information that can be compared in future assessments to determine the candidate's growth over time and overall competency.
Prior to recommending each candidate for a Clear Administrative Services Credential, the program determines that each candidate has reached a level of competence meriting possession of a CASC. .The induction program sponsor and the coach verify that the candidate has met competency expectations for performance as outlined in Standard 5 of the ASC Induction Program standards.
5. CPSEL p. 33Candidates should use the CPSEL Handbook during the induction program.

How do the updated CPSEL compare to the original standards?

The updated CPSEL maintain the same basic footprint of the original CPSEL, broadly emphasizing six major leadership areas. This continuity helps educators, policymakers and programs both align and link the updated CPSEL with existing California state policies and local uses, the current national leadership standards, research, and evidence-based practices across the states. 

The leadership standards were refreshed to clarify expectations for 21st century administrators who are charged with supporting all students to be college and career-ready upon graduation. These demands require administrators to take and share leadership in implementing new curriculum; collaborating more authentically with staff, families and the community; and including the needs and assets of each and every student in decisions about continuously improving academic and support services. The updated CPSEL have as their foundation the following Guiding Principles:
  • Inform leadership development and performance across a career continuum
  • Incorporate existing, accepted descriptions and guides for professional education leadership
  • Consistently promote student attainment of performance and content expectations as well as student well being
  • Acknowledge the need for ongoing dialogue, challenging assumptions, and continued learning among staff and stakeholders
  • Reflect the pervasive need to consider equity dilemmas, problems, and issues
  • Promote action on the concepts of access, opportunity, and empowerment for all members of the school community.

The structure of the CPSEL was also updated and now include not only the standard statement, but also a breakdown of elements and example indicators for each standard (see below).

How are the CPSEL Organized?

The updated CPSEL organize broad descriptions of effective leadership into three levels that help to describe, in increasing detail, the work of an education leader. The levels include
  1. Standards,
  2. Elements
  3. Example indicators of practice


The updated CPSEL are organized into six broad categories, or standards, that represent the responsibilities of an education leader and reflect both professional and personal practice. Each standard has a title that supports its identification and use:

  • Development and Implementation of a Shared Vision
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Management and Learning Environment
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Ethics and Integrity
  • External Context and Policy


The CPSEL elements highlight three to four main focus areas within each standard. They serve to clarify the intention of the standard and help to organize and define key areas of leader actions within the standard. For example, three elements - Professional Learning Culture, Curriculum and Instruction, and Assessment and Accountability - identify key areas of leadership that comprise Instructional Leadership, CPSEL 2.

Example Indicators of Practice

The indicators further delineate leader actions described in the elements. The indicators are examples of how an education leader might demonstrate the element or standard within her or his practice. One administrator might show leadership by setting expectations with teachers that state frameworks will be used in developing new curriculum units, while another administrator might demonstrate leadership by bringing together staff with divergent perspectives and reaching consensus on what software is needed for English Learners to be successful in a project (Curriculum and Instruction element in CPSEL 2: Instructional Leadership). The indicators are not intended to be a comprehensive or required list of administrator behaviors, rather they are examples of practice that illustrate the intent of the standard and element. The example indicators can be used and/or adapted for specific contexts in a variety of ways and are appropriate for administrator leaders from preparation through levels of increasingly accomplished practice.

The structure of the CPSEL parallels other state documents such as the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (2009) and the Quality Professional Learning Standards (Torlakson, December 2013; State Board of Education 2015). In addition the CPSEL structure is the foundation for the Descriptions of Practice (DOP), a developmental continuum that serves as a planning and assessment tool in education leader preparation, induction, professional learning and evaluation. (CPSEL - DoP: Descriptions of Practice)

What are the Descriptions of Practice (DOP)

The Descriptions of Practice (DOP) elaborate on the CPSEL by detailing key expectations in each standard and mapping what related research-based practice would look like at different points along a developmental continuum. The continuum reflects the growth of principals and other education administrators as they develop from being emerging managers to strategic and collaborative leaders whose efforts result in improving student learning and wellbeing. (Note: The Descriptions of Practice are published as Moving Leadership Standards Into Everyday Work - Descriptions of Practice, WestEd.)

What is the connection or relationship between the expectations used for the revised Preliminary and the CPSEL used for the revised Clear Credential Programs?

Both the Preliminary and Clear Credential Programs focus on preparing candidates for certification and to be successful as administrators. The programs develop candidates' knowledge, skills, and dispositions at two different stages of administrator preparation, as described in the CTC's state-adopted program standards. The California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL) undergird both the Preliminary Credential Program and the Clear Credential Programs. However, the new Preliminary Program introduces the California Administrator Content Expectations (CACE) and the California Administrator Performance Expectations (CAPE) as specific expectations to be used for the first stage of preparation; the Clear Credential program uses the updated CPSEL, directly, for the second stage of induction. The CACE and CAPE have a different structure from the CPSEL. (See graphic comparison below.)


(CASC Program Standards, p. 12)

The CACE and CAPE are specifically targeted to a candidate preparing for his or her first administrative position and describe the set of knowledge, skills and attitudes that beginning education administrators should have and be able to demonstrate. These expectations lay the foundation for ongoing, future learning required by the more sophisticated and complex expectations in the CPSEL. The CAPE were developed to be parallel in structure and in format to the Teacher Performance Expectations (TPE), creating a bridge that links teacher and administrator preparation and accountability. The CTC anticipates developing an administrator assessment for the Preliminary ASC Credential.

Where can I find a copy of the CPSEL?

A copy of the CPSEL, including standards, elements, and indictors, can be found here.
Updated April 25, 2022