WWU Graduates Receive Excellent Scores on SSA Exam

When 100 percent of the test-takers pass an assessment test, it is a pretty good assessment of the students—and the program of study.

Nineteen students from William Woods University completed the most recent School Superintendent Assessment (SSA) exam—and all passed.

“A feather in our cap for sure!” Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, WWU president, said when she heard the news.

The School Superintendent Assessment (SSA) evaluates candidates’ understanding of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards as they relate to the job responsibilities of superintendents.

According to Dr. Doug Ebersold, dean of education for Graduate and Professional Studies programs at William Woods, the last calculated SSA passing rate for the state of Missouri was 92 percent. 


“To see the students pass at a 100 percent rate is a major accomplishment.”


The assessment is an examination used by 17 states and offered to students who obtain an educational specialist degree.

William Woods University has been offering the specialist of education in school administration program since North Central Association’s Higher Learning Commission granted its approval in 2003. This degree prepares educational administrators to be certified for the superintendent’s certification. A specialist of education in curriculum leadership was added later. These degrees are a level higher than the master’s degree, and they prepare recipients to pursue the doctorate degree.


The SSA assessment is divided into three one-hour sections: Evaluation of Actions, Synthesis of Information and Problem Solving and Analysis of Information and Decision Making.

Evaluations of Actions comprises five vignettes that present situations a superintendent may encounter. Each vignette is followed by a focused question that asks what the superintendent may do next.

Synthesis of Information and Problem Solving is a single case analysis. The candidate is presented with a short scenario and a set of several documents. The candidate is required to examine the documents and select relevant information to address questions that pose complex problems related to the scenario.


The last part of the assessment is Analysis of Information and Decision Making, which contains three document-based exercises. Each consists of a scenario typically encountered by superintendents and one supporting document. Using the information in the document, the candidate responds to two questions.


Ebersold attributes the success to WWU’s specific methodology.


“Part of the reason we feel our students do well is because we hire practicing superintendents as professors, which gives the students a practical aspect in the learning. It is just another means of seeing the quality of our program.”


Miriam Spencer, executive director of the Family Literacy Center in Kansas City, Mo., completed her specialist of education in school administration at William Woods and has referred people to the program.


“The convenient schedule and the way the curriculum covered material that I could immediately put to use was the greatest strength of the program,” she said. “The format, location and variety of professors were great.  The best part was the opportunity to spend time with professionals from a variety of districts and learn about best practices from others.”