To the Editor:
Richard F. Elmore’s recent Commentary about the structure, content, and philosophy of the new wave of leadership-preparation initiatives made several significant points about this burgeoning field (“Building a Knowledge Base for Educational Leadership,” Jan. 30, 2008). In particular, his comments on the importance of focusing leaders on what is actually going on in the classroom, while grounding the work of leadership development in real-life and real-time conditions, are spot on.
A good example can be found at the NYC Leadership Academy, established in 2003 as a separate, nonprofit organization under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Children First reform initiative.
To prepare and support aspiring and early-career principals, the academy offers comprehensive school leadership programs using problem-based and action-learning methods that are research-based, and draws promising leadership-development practices from the public and private sectors. Our programs are aligned with standards from the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium, the state, and New York City.
Currently, 195 graduates of our aspiring principals program are leading New York City public schools, making up 13 percent of the city’s principals. By and large, our graduates lead schools attended by children whose futures rely the most on public schools, schools that often have high concentrations of poverty and low performance.
Leadership development for these schools does not end with ascendancy to the principalship: The academy supports early-career principals by pairing them with coaches who are retired veteran principals or superintendents. Each coach provides in-school, one-on-one support that addresses crucial and timely issues and is responsive to the needs of that leader in that school.
As Mr. Elmore advises in his Commentary, we also have been deeply committed to sharing our work. We document and disseminate our program design and curricula in many ways, and, with support from the Wallace Foundation, are working closely with other districts to train staff members responsible for school leadership in using our methods. As a result, a number of districts around the country have adapted the academy’s leadership-development and -coaching work.
It has been and will remain our firm conviction that materials developed, tested, and taught at the NYC Leadership Academy should be in the public domain and available for all who are striving to improve school leadership. After all, as Mr. Elmore rightly notes, the desire to improve the performance of public schools for our children is not proprietary. Why should the tools to make this happen be treated as such?
Sandra J. Stein
Chief Executive Officer
NYC Leadership Academy
Long Island City, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the March 05, 2008 edition of Education Week as Leadership Preparation: Offering a Case in Point