CPSEL - DOP: Questions and Answers

What are the Descriptions Of Practice?

    The Descriptions of Practice (DOP) are a set of four-level, developmental continuums for the California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL), published in Moving Leadership Standards Into Everyday Work - Descriptions of Practice (WestEd 2015).

    To understand the DOP, it is important to understand the California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL) upon which the DOP are based. The 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 provide three levels of specificity: Standards, Elements and Indicators. (See Program Standard 5: CPSEL)

What is the vision of education leadership inherent in the Descriptions of Practice?

    The vision of education leadership embodied in the DOP is one in which all efforts target the educational success of every student. In this vision, instructional leadership is the central role of the administrator, with education achievement and equity the goal toward which she or he guides teachers and other staff; students, parents, and guardians; and the school's broader community. Recognizing that individuals will be at different levels of practice at different times in their careers, the DOP invoke and reinforce a growth mindset, especially when they are internalized over time. The DOP are intended to help guide professional learning for leader development, providing support to identify areas of strength and need for extended or deepening learning.

How are the DOP structured/organized?

    The DOP are organized around the CPSEL and comprise19 continuums, one for each element. Each continuum describes four levels of practice:
    • Practice that is directed toward the standard
    • Practice that approaches the standard
    • Practice that meets the standard
    • Practice that exemplifies the standard.

    When reading a DOP continuum from left to right, the progression is evident, with the descriptions indicating deepening knowledge, increasing task complexity, and greater collaboration with and capacity building of others. The progression of practices in the DOP reveals the following developmental intentions, with the leader and his or her work reflecting a shift from



    The DOP embed references to the CPSEL's Example Indicators, however, the DOP have been carefully worded to leave room to accommodate the necessary variation in leadership practice dictated by the different challenges and opportunities that exist at one site as compared to another. 

How could the DOP be used in administrator induction?

    Induction programs support candidate development and growth based on the six CPSEL, requiring documentation of competence in at least one element of each standard. The DOP describe what "meets the standard" could look like, as well as progressions toward meeting and exemplifying each CPSEL. The continuums in the DOP guide induction programs, coaches and candidates in what to expect and look for in the progression of administrators' development of leadership skills and competencies. Candidates might use the DOP as a self-assessment to determine progress they are making on IIP goals. CASC coaches might use the DOP, along with the CPSEL, to help candidates frame professional development goals and activities documented in the IIP. Program sponsors might use DOP with staff and coaches to develop collective understanding of a beginning administrator's progressive development and calibrate expectations for program results. 

How do the DOP inform evaluation?

    The DOP reflect a developmental continuum, illustrating the incremental progression of a leader's capacity, that is, knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Given the context-specific nature of leadership, the DOP are not intended nor suited to serve as prescriptions for evaluation. Although the continuums in the DOP are "rubric-like", they are not calibrated nor validated as a high-stakes, summative evaluation. Specifying how a leader might demonstrate achievement of a particular standard as a point of continued employment, for example, is a matter of local dialogue and agreement. The DOP are designed to help users clarify and distinguish progressively more complex leader behaviors and performance expectations indicated in the CPSEL. As such, they can be used as a tool for self- or periodic formative assessments and could be appropriately used as one of a set of multiple measures in a comprehensive evaluation system. Use of the DOP is appropriate as a valuable planning and assessment component of a CASC candidate's comprehensive induction program.

Where are the Descriptions of Practice located?

Updated April 25, 2022