Wallace Funds Provide $3 Million to Southern Regional Education Board For Multi-State School Leadership Improvement Project

August 21, 2001

Wallace Funds Provide $3 Million to Southern Regional Education Board For Multi-State School Leadership Improvement Project

NEW YORK, NY, August 21, 2001 – The Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds have awarded $3 million to support a multi-state project by the Southern Regional Education Board to improve the professional preparation of secondary school leaders, strengthen and diversify the pool of future leaders, and create better conditions for such leaders to succeed at boosting student achievement.

University-based and state leadership training programs are the usual path for accrediting principals and superintendents. But such programs often are not well-connected to effective practice and reflect outdated theories of organizational change. With its close ties to higher education, governors and other state leaders throughout the South and its national recognition for leading widespread, effective school reform, SREB is exceptionally well positioned to develop creative solutions to this problem.

"The leadership initiative will enable SREB to work with states to prepare existing and aspiring school leaders who can give leadership to curriculum, instruction and student achievement – a type of leadership that is the missing link in current standards and accountability efforts,” said Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of SREB.

“SREB will work with states, institutions of higher education and local school districts to redesign leadership preparation programs to prepare and develop a diverse pool of leaders who can guide schools and districts in improving achievement for all students.”

Commenting on the Funds’ grant to SREB, M. Christine DeVita, president of the Wallace Funds, said: “Over the past decade, SREB has had an exceptional track record of measurable school improvement, and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to help them take the next crucial step of creating innovative models for preparing a new generation of school leaders capable of fostering increased student achievement.”

Over the next three years, SREB will undertake these strategies to improve the preparation, performance and accountability of secondary school leaders: Support the development of a prototype state “Leadership Institute” model to improve the professional preparation of leaders of low-performing schools using methods linked to comprehensive school improvement.

Working with the Georgia state university system, the Governor’s office, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, the Georgia Department of Education, local schools and colleges and private organizations, SREB will support a prototype Educational Leadership Institute in that state to prepare and develop school leaders using content and methods that connect leadership actions with real school problems. SREB will identify 15 to 20 low-performing middle- and high schools from its High Schools That Work and Making Middle Grades Matter sites and invite superintendents and school leaders to send teams to participate in the new leadership institute. This new team model of school leadership development will increase the pipeline of future promising leaders while ensuring that current principals have support for school improvement initiatives.

SREB will work with at least three other states to create a network of state leadership academies to prepare existing and aspiring school leaders able to plan and carry out comprehensive school improvement. With funding from the Wallace Funds and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, SREB will also develop a separate academy to support SREB’s middle grades and High Schools That Work sites exclusively. The priority of this separate academy will be to serve low-performing urban and rural schools that do not have access to state academy support. --Form a network of colleges and universities committed to changing traditional methods of preparing school leaders.

SREB will select at least four colleges and universities that indicate a willingness to refocus their programs on developing future leaders. The emphasis will be on preparing leaders capable of improving the core functions of curriculum, instruction and student learning; placing greater emphasis on successfully applying research and field knowledge about educational leadership to solve problems; and packaging their leadership programs around comprehensive school improvement designs.

SREB will also work with a range of higher education institutions and state leadership academies to revise curricula and leadership preparation materials to help future leaders gain a fuller understanding of school and classroom practices and work effectively with teachers and others to increase student learning.
--Create goals and accountability measures to track progress in improving school leadership, and use data to continuously improve leadership preparation programs.

SREB will establish a special group composed of policymakers, state and local educators, higher education leaders and private sector leaders to develop goals and indicators for tracking and reporting to the public. Possible indicators might include:

  • whether the number of potential leaders in local districts has increased;
  • whether the leadership certification process has been opened to more educators with proven records of success;
  • whether there have been major changes in what is taught in university-based school leadership programs;
  • whether there is a more diverse pool of successful school leaders;
  • whether new leaders are making a difference in improving curriculum, instruction and student learning.

SREB will also collect data focusing on schools that have sent teams to the state leadership academies, university or higher education programs, the Georgia Leadership Institute or the SREB-based academy to assess the effectiveness of those leadership preparation models in fostering leadership that promotes higher student achievement.

SREB was created in 1948 by education, government and business leaders of 16 southern states to improve educational quality and opportunity and was the nation's first interstate compact for education. The governors and at least three other individuals from the founding states, including a legislator and an educator, serve on the Board. SREB fosters cooperation between government and education leaders, develops educational initiatives designed to build the economic strength of states, and provides information about school performance. One of SREB's major projects, High Schools That Work, includes more than 1,100 high schools in 26 states and was cited in a U.S. Department of Education study as the only high school reform program with strong evidence of improved student achievement. The Wallace Funds have been the major foundation supporter of High Schools That Work.

The grant to SREB is part of LEADERS Count, an initiative by the Wallace Funds to address the national challenge of improving education leadership in ways that increase student achievement. Over the next five years, the Funds have committed up to $150 million to realize three core objectives: attracting and placing a broader pool of able candidates into the principalship and superintendency; strengthening the abilities of leaders to improve student learning; and creating more supportive conditions for education leadership to succeed.