New Leaders for New Schools Wins Innovations Award

September 15, 2009
New Leaders for New Schools Wins Innovations Award

Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center Honors Initiative to Improve Academic Achievement in Inner City Schools

Cambridge, Mass. – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University yesterday announced New Leaders for New Schools partnership with the Chicago Public School District as a 2009 Innovations in American Government winner. New Leaders for New Schools is designed to drive up academic achievement by recruiting and training effective school principals. The program is one of six government innovations honored at yesterday’s Innovations in American Government Awards ceremony and will receive a grant towards the dissemination of its innovation around the country. Yesterday's event concluded with the premier of 2009 Visionaries, a PBS-produced documentary highlighting this year’s Innovations winners.

New Leaders for New Schools is built on the premise that any student can succeed under the supervision of supportive school leadership. The program attracts high caliber individuals from both academic and corporate sectors to lead historically underserved and underperforming urban schools.

New Leaders for New Schools is cracking the code of how to drive dramatic gains in low-performing schools across the country,” said Jon Schnur, CEO & co-founder. “We are seeing how recruiting and training outstanding principals can be an essential, if not sufficient part of the strategy to drive both teacher effectiveness and better student achievement.”

To date, New Leaders for New Schools has built a national community of more than 640 New Leader administrators and principals in 12 urban centers around the country and currently serves some 200,000 students in partner districts’ highest need schools. In Chicago alone, there are nearly 125 New Leaders, and the program supports the academic achievement of nearly 50,000 public school students. In addition to Chicago, urban centers with New Leaders include Baltimore, MD; Charlotte-Mecklenberg, NC; Memphis, TN; Milwaukee, WI; Greater New Orleans, LA; the New York City and Newark region; Prince George’s County, MD; the Bay Area, CA; and Washington, D.C.

“Seven thousand students in the United States drop out of school every day,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government program, Harvard Kennedy School. “With the help of public and private partnerships, New Leaders for New Schools is bringing in talented leaders to drive up the academic performance and curb the high drop out rate of our nation’s struggling school districts. In honoring this program, we hope many other school districts can learn from this program’s new framework for improving K-12 education.”

How the Program Works
New Leaders for New Schools expands the pool of talented school leaders through an executive-style recruitment process. Since its inception in 2001, the program has received over 10,000 applicants from across the country. After undergoing a rigorous review process, those selected attend a four-week organizational leadership institute followed by a year-long residency. As residents, they work alongside mentor principals and receive ongoing coaching and professional development support.

Upon completion of the program, residents are awarded principal certification and are placed at schools in one of the 12 urban centers New Leaders serve. The professional and personal relationships built throughout the training process are designed to serve New Leaders for years to come. Once becoming principals, they continue to attend periodic training seminars and can call upon a cohort of New Leaders principals for support.

Preliminary findings from the RAND Corporation’s ongoing 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. The program also reports preliminary outcomes from publicly available data including:

      • In 2009, New Leaders principals were twice as likely as other principals to oversee 20 plus point gains in student proficiency scores in their schools.
      • 88 percent of New Leaders-led high schools had higher graduation rates than their districts in 2008.
      • The most improved or highest performing schools in five cities – and, in two cases, states, including Illinois – have been led by New Leaders principals.

“Good teaching and good leadership matter, and we depend on our teachers to lay the intellectual foundation for our students to learn and grow,” said Ron Huberman, CEO, Chicago Public Schools. “Equally important are our principals and the 125 New Leaders in Chicago which will collectively move 50,000 Chicago public school students towards greater academic achievement every day with the unyielding support of hardworking, dedicated teachers.”

For more information:
Kate Hoagland
Ash Center

Margot Lowenstein
New Leaders for New Schools

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit