Irrefutable evidence exists to support the fact that school transformation requires exemplary leadership, though significant debate exists about what types of training and support are most effective.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s 2015 Annual Summit, hosted on March 6 in San Francisco, sought to address this issue by inviting education leaders who have successfully broken through the status quo and brought about change in their organizations and communities.

Irma Zardoya, NYCLA President & CEO, led a panel discussion with three seasoned education leaders to discuss the effectiveness of standards-based leadership development in preparing and supporting leaders to transform student outcomes.

Each panelist’s engagement with NYCLA was unique but one common thread existed: they shifted cultural tides and entrenched innovative practices, which yielded significant and sustainable change in the places they led. The following is a synopsis of their remarks:

Kay Coleman, Project Director of iLead AZ – Kay launched iLead AZ in 2011, an adaptation of NYCLA’s nationally-recognized Aspiring Principals Program at Arizona State University (ASU), the largest teacher’s college in the United States. For the first time, ASU’s school leaders are being trained through an experiential, standards-based leadership development model.

“We use NYCLA’s leadership standards every day; they are amazing, powerful and influential.”

Superintendents across Arizona verified that ASU principal preparation graduates were the only leaders they would hire; these testimonials and actions caused the residency and standards-based program to become an integral part of ASU’s preparation programs. As a result, iLead AZ has become ASU’s flagship principal preparation program. Thanks to Kay’s efforts to prove that this type of leadership development program has a lasting impact, program graduates are making lasting impressions on the schools they are serving. In her own words, “We are seeing through trend data that our graduates are making a positive impact on student achievement.”

Measurements of Effectiveness:

  • 97% of graduated place in school leadership positions (85% in principal, assistant principal or district level director or coordinator positions)
  • 95% of those placed remained successfully in their district after one year
  • 55% of 1st year principals lead school to increased school grade (or maintained A)

Barbara Deane-Williams, Superintendent of Greece Central School District – When Barbara became the Superintendent of Greece Central School District (NY), she was the 7th leaders in seven years. As a result of the consistent turnover, an overarching sentiment in the district existed that improvement was impossible.

“We focused on supporting every child and each person’s role in that process; we are all learners.”

Barbara viewed perceived barriers as opportunities to innovate and collaborated with NYCLA to design and implement a comprehensive professional development program for teachers, teacher leaders and principals. The curricula encompassed what school leaders need to know and be able to do in order to improve student outcomes and were grounded in trust, collaboration and relationship building. Barbara explained, “You need to engage everyone, provide them with the tools, strategies and information required to turn around schools — and see schools as the unit of change and principals and the lever of change.”

Measurements of Effectiveness:

Student growth indicators included increases in the following areas:

  • Graduation rates
  • Grades 9 & 10 credit accrual
  • Grade 8 accelerated math and science participation
  • One College course by graduation
  • AP and ACT participation
  • Grades 1 & 3 reading on grade level
  • Algebra II/Trigonometry regents exam proficiency

Danika Rux, Deputy Network Leader at the New York City Department of Education – As a graduate of NYCLA’s New York City-based Aspiring Principals Program, Danika participated in our standards-based, experiential model and leveraged this expertise by empowering teachers and holding every adult in her school accountable for student outcomes.

“My biggest challenge in going into a low – performing schools was to change the culture and convince everyone that we could turn the school around. I wasn’t going to accept what I was hearing that our students couldn’t learn.”

By setting clear expectations and modeling behavior consistently she convinced her school community that they could improve student outcomes. In a school where 98% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, Danika proved that low-income doesn’t have to mean low-performing. She also used NYCLA’s tenets in succession planning, ensuring a seamless transition. “I used my own experience in NYCLA’s Aspiring Principals Program to build the skills and experiences of another NYCLA aspiring principal. I mentored this principal after leaving for a different position.”

Measurements of Effectiveness:

    • Based on the NYC Department of Education’s Progress Report, the school moved from an “F” (2007-2008) to an “A,” a 93% rank (2011-2012)
    • NY State math results increased from 44.4% to 61.6% passing
    • Survey taken by parents, students and teacher surrounding the school environment increased 44% over the four years of her tenure