school principals

How our leadership academies are creating better school principals

Research supports building stronger principals to effect lasting change -- and it starts with leadership training

Where are we now

Our leadership academies are now monthly occurrences, and we work hard to sure that each session is:

  • Issue-based and relevant: Our leaders engage in case studies and problem-solving protocols to address the “real” issues they face every day in our schools.
  • Data-driven: Our leaders are required to access and analyze the data we use in our district to drive instructional decision-making and be prepared to facilitate conversations about the data.
  • Job-embedded: In addition to our monthly academies, we provide executive coaching to our leaders to help them practice the concepts discussed during monthly academies in the daily context of their schools. Principals also meet in cohort groups with assistant superintendents, who are our principal supervisors, to share effective practices and successes.

With our student population at 72 percent free and reduced lunch and speaking more than 70 languages, we have focused several sessions in each of our academies on building a positive school culture that supports all students. These sessions focus on viewing every child as an asset to the classroom and leveraging the uniqueness they bring to the school community regardless of their race, gender, or economic status.

Additionally, for our Aspiring Leaders Academy, we have added a portfolio-based assessment in which participants complete key work products related to the academy’s content and then meet with a coach to review these products, receive feedback, and continue to advance them. One example of this is a video-based leadership story that each aspiring leader records and updates two to three times throughout the year. We are hoping this new structure will address the challenge of providing ongoing support beyond the monthly academies, so that the content “sticks” and we can realize the vision of building a pipeline of leaders through our differentiated academies.

The impact so far

Since we launched in the 2015–2016 school year, we have seen great success as a result of our leadership academies.

  • One hundred percent of our leaders rated the academies as effective or highly effective.
  • We have realized gains in student proficiency in our ELA and math scores.
  • Our graduation rates have continued to rise.
  • Leaders are also experiencing success in improving the climate and culture within their schools.
  • Aligning academy content to the priorities of our district has made an enormous difference in bringing support for our leaders to the next level.

While it has been resource-intensive to create this customized approach to leadership development, we strongly believe the investment we are making in our building leaders is having a much larger and lasting impact than an “off-the-shelf” approach to leadership development. We look forward to building on the success we’ve seen so far.


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