Over the next five years of the initiative, the six districts will be able to replace all their retiring principals and assistant principals with graduates of high-quality training programs. As important, the initiative will allow the districts to evaluate the performance of these novice school leaders once they are on the job—and then provide them with mentoring and other forms of professional development that address needs determined by the evaluations. The districts project that by the end of the initiative they will have filled at least two-thirds of their principal slots with highly-qualified school leaders.
Throughout the endeavor, independent researchers—to be selected by the foundation in coming months—will be examining the six efforts, in part to see what works and what doesn’t in putting a district-wide pipeline together. By the sixth year, the researchers will measure the effects on student achievement of principals who have emerged from these pipelines. The research team periodically will publish reports about its findings.
Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) will work with the University of Georgia, the University of West Georgia, and the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement. J. Alvin Wilbanks, GCPS’ chief executive officer and superintendent, and the nation’s longest-serving urban superintendent, said the district already has put a priority on closing the achievement gap and looks forward to “hard evidence about whether and how building a complete pipeline of effective principals can boost student achievement.”
School leadership often has been overlooked as an education improvement strategy, the foundation says, despite the evidence that leadership influences student achievement. Indeed, there are virtually no documented instances of troubled schools being turned around without effective principals. One reason is that the principal is the single most important factor in determining whether a school can attract and keep the high-quality teachers necessary to turn around struggling schools.
The Wallace Foundation also will make additional grants to support the districts in their efforts to strengthen and complete their principal pipelines. These include $600,000 for Education Development Center (EDC), a global nonprofit organization, to work with each district to assess the quality of its leader training programs using a tool previously developed by EDC with Wallace support. Based on that assessment, EDC will recommend ways to improve principal training to each district and its training programs.
Wallace also gave a two-year grant of $250,000 to the New York City Leadership Academy to manage creating a “learning community” among the six districts so they can exchange ideas, discuss common problems and engage with the evaluators and other experts.
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