Every Student, Every Circumstance

At a recent conference I learned of the amazing success of New Leaders for New Schools .  If you’re not yet familiar with this organization, do yourself a favor and check them out.  Founded in 2000, New Leaders has committed to locating and training educational leaders to take the reigns at urban schools across the country.  Not content to just place leaders in struggling schools, this organization’s ambitions go a few steps further.  In their own words :

Goal 1: School Performance at Scale: By 2014, 60% of schools led by New Leaders principals will be on track to having 90-100% of students achieve proficiency in core academic subjects by the principal’s fifth year…

Goal 2: World-Class, Scalable, Sustainable Organization and Innovative ‘Action Tank’: By 2014, New Leaders will be a world-class, scalable, sustainable, data-driven organization that has created an essential knowledge base that is actively used by education policy and decision makers to drive education excellence at scale…

Goal 3: Mission-Driven, Hiqh-Quality Principals to Support Citywide Success for All Students: By 2014, a critical mass of schools in most of our current partner cities – and a critical mass of principal vacancies – will be filled by high-quality New Leaders principals…

Those goals may be in reach.  NLNS enlisted the help of the RAND Corporation to conduct a multi-year evaluation of their impact.  The findings so far:

In 2009, New Leaders principals in K-8 schools were twice as likely as other principals to lead breakthrough gains in student proficiency scores in their schools. (emphasis added)

Cumulative impact of New Leaders over time: Preliminary results indicate that students in elementary and middle schools led by New Leaders principals for at least three years are academically outpacing their peers by statistically significant margins.

I recently had the privilege of visiting with Eric Guckian, Executive Director of the Charlotte, NC location .  On the day of my visit the Charlotte location was in the middle of intensive interviews with potential New Leader residents (NLNS refer to their recruits’ training period as a residency).  I was lucky enough to witness the recruitment and screening process first hand.  Because their recruitment process is so rigorous and intensive, much of the process is confidential.  For good reason.  A leader’s ability to respond quickly and confidently in an uncertain and unpredictable environment is a critical trait.  Shrouding the details of the process mirrors the unpredictability of a school environment.  I want to honor that confidentiality.  It will suffice to say, however, that getting through the final stages of the interview process is no easy task. Nationally, NLNS has an acceptance rate of less than 7%.  That’s understandable.  NLNS is recruiting leaders for the most poorly performing schools in some of the poorest areas of major urban centers.  During the process and the conversations that followed I was impressed by just how seriously this organization takes its mission as well as the potential leaders that will lead it to fulfill its goals.

Keep an eye on this organization.  The passion was evident in each member I spoke with and their belief in student achievement for every student, regardless of circumstance, was nothing short of inspiring.

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