Reflecting a growing embrace of instructional leadership as a key to raising student achievement, a foundation will spend $3 million to develop training programs for school leaders throughout the South.
The Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds awarded that amount to the Southern Regional Education Board, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that works to improve schools in 16 member states. The groups have worked together on projects for a decade, and this one aims to train about 700 superintendents and middle school and high school leaders.
Under the three-year program, announced last month, school officials will learn the principles of High Schools that Work, the SREB model of combining academics and vocational education. Some 1,100 high schools in 26 states have adopted those principles as a way of raising achievement.
“We want school leaders to lead instruction, to really know the curriculum and what goes on in the classroom,” said Mary Lee Fitzgerald, the director of education programs for the New York City-based philanthropy.
In one program in Georgia, leaders from 15 to 20 low-performing middle and high schools will be invited to attend a leadership institute with the aim of changing their schools to decent, said Gene Bottoms, the senior vice president of the SREB.
“We have to slay a lot of dragons. High schools have a lot of problems,” Mr. Bottoms said, mentioning high 9th grade dropout rates, the need for remedial courses in college, and low expectations. School leaders will be taught the importance of students’ taking four years of math. They also will learn how to analyze data from successful programs. In another program, the SREB will choose at least four colleges that want to change their programs to focus on instructional leadership.
The grant is part of the foundation’s $150 million effort to change the principalship and superintendency to focus on instructional leadership, increase professional development, and attract a broader pool of people to the principalship.