2009 Winner
Chicago Public School District, Illinois
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

It was not until relatively recently that research clearly showed the direct relationship between leadership and student achievement: great schools are led by great principals. With this lesson in mind, New Leaders for New Schools was launched in 2000 in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools. The program is built on the belief that children from all communities can achieve at the highest levels with the benefit of strong school leadership. Its mission is to recruit and train individuals from both academic and corporate sectors to lead historically underserved and underperforming urban schools.

The New Leaders recruitment process and curriculum is based on extensive interviews with school leaders and district superintendents, and the most current thinking in education and policy. Applicants must undergo a rigorous admissions process. Once accepted, participants attend a four-week organizational leadership institute that focuses on developing instructional and organizational leadership skills. This is followed by a yearlong, paid residency in an urban public school, working alongside a mentor principal. Residents are full members of school administrative teams and are responsible for positively affecting student achievement and providing leadership to teachers.

Upon completion of the program, residents are awarded principal certification and placed at partner schools. The professional and personal relationships built throughout the training process are designed to support New Leaders on an ongoing basis. Throughout their professional careers, graduates attend periodic training seminars and have access to a cohort of other New Leaders for guidance.

The training program is part of a broader mission to identify the educational practices that are directly responsible for improving student learning in urban schools. New Leaders is constantly measuring its outcomes and using them not only to improve its curriculum but also to influence standard policy and practice for school leadership beyond the walls of its partner schools. In particular, the Chicago Public School's early and persistent commitment to the program has allowed it to become a model of organizational learning.

Since it first trained thirteen recruits in 2001, New Leaders has expanded rapidly in Chicago and across the country. To date, New Leaders for New Schools has received over 10,000 applications for its training program. It has built a national community of more than 640 New Leader administrators and principals in eleven urban centers nationwide, serving over 200,000 students. In Chicago, there are nearly 125 New Leaders and the program supports the academic achievement of nearly 50,000 public school students. Other partner districts include: Baltimore and Prince George’s County in Maryland; the Bay Area in California; Washington, DC; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Memphis; Milwaukee; New Orleans and Jefferson Parish in Louisiana; and, the New York City and Newark region.

Preliminary findings from a RAND Corporation study 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. Other indicators also demonstrate the program's success. In 2009, New Leaders principals were twice as likely as other principals to oversee twenty-plus point gains in student proficiency scores in their schools. And, in 2007, students in high schools led by New Leaders graduated at a rate of 76 percent compared to an average of 58 percent for the rest of their districts.