Evidence in Action: The Power of the NYC Leadership Academy’s Aspiring Principals Program

Every day we see strategies that are working and delivering results in a rapidly changing world. This Evidence in Action blog series highlights the voices of social innovation organizations to highlight effective interventions in communities across the country and evidence-based policy and practice leaders to elevate both the results-driven solutions being advanced to help solve our most pressing social problems and to describe the evidence-based federal programs that are critical to developing and scaling effective human and social services. Today, we hear from NYC Leadership Academy, a nonprofit organization that prepares and supports passionate, high-quality school and school system leaders, about the value of school leader development programs in both addressing equity and improving learning for students.

Tenth graders at Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts showcase their film, “Minority Reality: The Fight for Humanity.”

For 15 years, the NYC Leadership Academy (Leadership Academy) has trained and built the capacity of school and school system leaders to lead with a focus on dismantling inequities in schools. We have seen first-hand how leaders who focus on equity can improve learning for students, particularly in our most underserved communities.

We recently caught up with three alums of our evidence-based Aspiring Principals Program to learn about the innovative programs they have put in place to better engage young men of color who are struggling academically. Overall, Leadership Academy principals have driven impressive gains for students: A study by the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU found that graduates cut English Language Arts (ELA) performance gaps in half and eliminated gaps in math in three years.

In just a few short months, these three principals saw students’ grades and attendance improve, discipline incidents drop, and involvement in after-school programs rise. Their relationships with teachers and families began to strengthen. Two high school principals did this by creating mentoring and arts programs that tap into students’ interests while matching the young men with adults who share some of their life experiences and are committed to supporting their growth in and outside of school.

A middle school principal identified weak relationships between students and teachers as a reason for student disengagement and created professional learning communities for her teachers. During their frequent meetings, teachers read about students in urban schools and speak about their own biases and how they affect the way they run their classrooms and engage with their students.

School improvement strategies like these have been made possible by the federal School Leader Program, of which the Leadership Academy has been a grantee. We urge Congress to allocate $30 million in FY2018 to the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program (SLRSP), the only federal program dedicated to investing in evidence-based strategies for strengthening school leadership in high-need schools.

This post is part of America Forward’s Evidence in Action blog series. Follow along on Twitter with #EvidenceinAction and catch up on the series here.

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