The Wallace Foundation Expands State-District Initiative to Improve Education Leadership to 21 states

November 10, 2004

Wallace commits up to $21.6 million over three years to six new states and partner districts, and awards an additional $7.4 million in related grants to strengthen the initiative

NEW YORK, November 10, 2004 – The Wallace Foundation announced today one-year grants totaling $7.2 million to six states to strengthen the ability of district and school leadership to improve student achievement.

The new states – Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Texas – will each receive $1.2 million to carry out plans at both the state and district levels to improve the training and working conditions of education leaders to improve the learning and achievement of all students, especially those with the greatest needs. These grants, which are subject to final negotiation, are renewable for up to two additional years based on evidence of progress, for a total of up to $21.6 million.

The addition of the six new states complements the efforts of 15 states currently participating in Wallace’s State Action for Education Leadership Project (SAELP). The SAELP states, along with their partner school districts, are working to ensure that state policies affecting leadership are coordinated with and supportive of local efforts to improve student learning. The new grants will broaden the range of leadership issues addressed and extend the reach of the initiative to every region of the country.

“Leadership is the most important factor after teaching in whether schools succeed in raising student achievement,” said M. Christine DeVita, president of The Wallace Foundation. “The partnership between Wallace and the 21 states we are funding will, we believe, yield innovative approaches to new policies and practices to improve student achievement. By joining forces, we can help spread improvements and get results more broadly and quickly.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to joining Wallace in support of this initiative, with details to be determined within the next month.

“We’re pleased to join with Wallace in its effort to improve leader training, and create the conditions for leadership in all schools to ensure all young people graduate from high school,” Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education at the Gates Foundation. “As we have seen in our efforts to improve secondary education, leadership is a critical ingredient in helping schools prepare all students for college, work and citizenship.”

The SAELP Initiative

Through the work of the current SAELP states, the importance of effective leadership has become more widely recognized as critical to school improvement efforts. These 15 states have been leading a national effort to ensure that their laws and policies strengthen, rather than inhibit, the capacity of education leaders to improve teaching and learning, as well as to harvest and widely share best practices and useful knowledge on a broad scale.

The 15 current SAELP states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. They are receiving assistance from a national consortium led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and including the Education Commission of the States, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors Association.

All SAELP states have demonstrated not only a solid commitment by their top leadership, including governors, but also a willingness to combine improved training of leaders with changes in the working conditions that can improve their performance in raising student achievement. Some of these conditions include creating doable jobs and providing the authority to get the job done, ensuring they have the data to make effective decisions and offering incentives to attract leaders to where they are needed most.

The SAELP initiative – combined with Wallace’s Leadership for Educational Achievement in Districts (LEAD) initiative that includes 12 districts located within the SAELP states – is one of the cornerstones of the Foundation’s education leadership initiative. Launched in 2000, this initiative aims to improve policies and regulations that contribute to and connect current leadership policies and practices at the state, district, school and classroom levels toward the goals of improving student achievement, and to support and share knowledge that will be of widespread use.

Related Grants Announcements

In addition to adding six new states to the initiative, The Wallace Foundation has announced additional grants that will ensure that state and district educators and other relevant experts can focus on leadership issues across sites and capture, analyze and spread relevant knowledge useful to policymakers and practitioners nationwide. These include:

  • A three-year grant of $6.6 million to the Council of Chief State School Officers to work with the Education Commission of the States and the National Governors Association to create and support six crucial “leadership issue groups.” The issues are: using data effectively to make better decisions; reallocating resources (money, people, time) and changing incentives to encourage more effective leadership and teaching; redefining the roles and responsibilities of school leaders; fostering skills and strategies to transform high school leadership; improving leadership assessment; and redefining the roles and responsibilities of school boards to improve district governance.
  • Three one-year grants of $425,000 each to Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin, and their participating districts, to carry out targeted plans to change policies and practices that fall within one of the six leadership issues above. Funding is renewable for up to two additional years based on evidence of progress.
  • Three grants of $100,000 each to Illinois, Massachusetts and Oregon to ensure that their SAELP work extends to key urban districts within their states, including Chicago, Boston and Portland. They will identify opportunities for the state and major urban districts to work together in sharing effective ideas and practices with districts throughout the state.
  • A $250,000 grant to the Education Development Center to further develop the foundation’s Education Leadership Action Network website – – a new resource for policymakers, practitioners, researchers, the media and other interested individuals who are dedicated to strengthening the performance of education leaders to improve achievement for all students. The website will enable Wallace to connect its states and districts with one another and with Wallace-funded and other research; and to help share new insights and practices beyond directly funded sites.

The Wallace Foundation seeks to support and share effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. Its three current objectives are to:

  • Strengthen education leadership to improve student achievement
  • Improve out-of-school learning opportunities
  • Expand participation in arts and culture