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Wallace Funds’ State-District Initiative to Strengthen School Leadership in Georgia

Atlanta — January 8, 2002

The Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds have announced the selection of Georgia and the Atlanta Public Schools as partners in two interrelated initiatives to promote national educational leadership reform. As the centerpiece of the Wallace Funds’ national LEADERS Count initiative, this multi-year, state-district collaboration will focus on developing policies and practices that strengthen the ability of superintendents and principals to improve student learning.

As part of the Funds’ state initiative, State Action for Education Leadership (SAELP), Georgia was awarded a three-year implementation grant of $250,000, along with 14 other states. Georgia’s Action Plan for Educational Leadership has as its goals the development and implementation of a coherent career-development/succession model for educational leadership that will result in all P-12 students in Georgia learning and achieving at high levels and the development and implementation of policy changes that will make the practice of educational leadership a more satisfying career choice.

As part of the Funds’ district initiative, Leadership for Educational Achievement in Districts (LEAD) initiative, Atlanta Public Schools was awarded a one-year grant of $527,290. The grant is renewable annually for a total of $3,647,960 over five years, as the district demonstrates significant progress toward achieving its goals. As one of 10 high-need districts selected from 40 applicants within SAELP states, the Atlanta Public Schools will provide leadership and professional development experiences to build leadership capacity at all levels of the district. The program will focus on setting high standards for students; building instructional programs to support those standards; using data to set benchmarks and monitor progress; and leading schools through standards-based objectives, results- based performance management and continuous improvement.

“I am very pleased that Georgia and the Atlanta Public Schools were competitively selected for this opportunity,” said Ron Newcomb, Education Assistant to Georgia Governor Roy Barnes. “This partnership will help promote and highlight the importance of education leadership as a significant and highly desirable career choice.”

“Educational leadership at all levels of a school system is a critical ingredient for student success, said Dr. Beverly L. Hall, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. “This generous award will help us increase leadership capacity throughout our district and in doing so will literally build the foundation for continuous success with our whole school reform initiatives.”

“For too long, education leadership has been a missing link in achieving academic excellence for all children,” said M. Christine DeVita, president of the Wallace Funds. “To make the needed changes in the recruitment, preparation and retention of superior leaders, reform has to address both district practices and state regulations and policies. This new state-district initiative is intended to discover and adopt new ways of strengthening leadership, and to have those changes improve the prospects of children in states and districts across the country.”

State Action for Education Leadership (SAELP)

SAELP, the Wallace Funds’ state-level initiative, was launched in spring 2001 with $8.9 million in funding. The project is being led by a national consortium consisting of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Governors’ Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the Education Commission of the States. Georgia was one of 37 states that responded to the consortium’s invitation to all 50 states to submit reform proposals. In June, following a review by an independent panel, Georgia was among 15 states to receive a $50,000 planning grant. In December, the consortium decided to award implementation grants to all 15 states following a further in-depth, independent review of the states’ plans.

Mirroring the structure of the national consortium leading the SAELP initiative, the Coordinating Board for Georgia’s State Action Plan for Educational Leadership consists of 21 members representing the following groups: Governor’s Office, General Assembly, State Board of Education, State School Superintendent, Professional Standards Commission, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Business Roundtable, Educational Leadership Professional Organization, Southern Regional Education Board, Practicing Educational Leaders, and Higher Education Faculty. Dr. Jan Kettlewell, associate vice chancellor for the P-16 Initiative at the University System of Georgia, is the project director for the SAELP initiative, and the Board of Regents will serve as the project’s fiscal agent.

Georgia’s State Action Plan for Educational Leadership consists of four strategies:

  • formulating new policy for the preparation and certification of educational leaders;
  • using Georgia’s newly created Leadership Institute for School Improvement as a laboratory for policy development and refinement (see accompanying separate release for details);
  • working with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and a cohort of 10-15 schools to test the new models for policy developed for matters such as recruitment and retention of new leaders; and
  • studying the conditions in which school administrators practice to identify and remove the barriers that keep them from further pursuing careers in educational leadership.

Leadership for Educational Achievement in Districts (LEAD)

Atlanta Public Schools was one of 10 districts in the Wallace Funds’ LEAD initiative selected from more than 40 applicants. The district’s plans underwent extensive review in 2001 by an independent panel of experts, with the Funds making the final selection. In partnership with the Governor’s office and the University System of Georgia, Atlanta Public Schools will help play a prominent role in redefining the principalship and superintendency, exploring the connections between leadership and learning, and identifying ways to promote successful practices to eventually influence other school districts in Georgia as well as across the country.

“Superintendents and principals are often hampered by state mandates and bureaucracies in their efforts to effect changes that will improve student learning,” stated Mary Lee Fitzgerald, the Funds’ director of education programs. “Through our state-district work, LEAD districts can help state policymakers understand the role that superintendents and principals play in raising all students to higher academic achievement. SAELP states can review and revise policies, with their LEAD districts serving as laboratories of learning and innovation. The collaborative efforts of Georgia and the Atlanta Public Schools, along with other academic, business and community partners, will put leadership at the core of school reform.”

The state-district initiatives are part of LEADERS Count, a 5-year, $150-million commitment by the Wallace Funds to place quality leadership at the core of school reform and to build a new field of knowledge that helps improvements spread on a broader scale. The objectives of LEADERS Count are to attract and place a broader pool of able candidates for school leadership, to strengthen the abilities of principals and superintendents to improve learning, and to create conditions that allow principals and superintendents to perform as effective leaders.

The Genesis of the State Partnership

In Fall 2000, Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes placed a special emphasis on educational leadership in his Education Reform Study Commission, a broadly representative group consisting of equal numbers of legislators, educators and business leaders. The commission focused on preparation and development programs for educational leaders, leadership certification, and working conditions for educational leaders in the schools. As a result of this work, the governor placed educational leadership high on the list of state priorities for reform, and appointed an Executive Committee and a broader-based Coordinating Board to develop a state action plan for making needed changes. The board’s representation was listed earlier (see p. 2). The Executive Committee’s membership includes: Dr. Jan Kettlewell, associate vice chancellor for the P-16 Initiative at the University System of Georgia (committee chair); Ron Newcomb, education assistant to Gov. Barnes; Phil Jacobs, president, Georgia BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc.; Steve Dolinger, superintendent, Fulton County Schools; F.D. Toth, executive secretary, Georgia Professional Standards Commission; and Tom Upchurch, president, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

The Atlanta Public School system has an active enrollment of 56,500 students, attending 93 schools-66 elementary, 16 middle, and 11 high schools. The schools system also supports five non-traditional schools for middle and/or high school students, two evening/community schools, two charter schools and an adult learning center.

Under the leadership of its 15th appointed superintendent, Dr. Beverly L. Hall, APS is in the third year of a whole school reform effort, changing the way school system business is conducted from the central office to the classroom. APS is focused on four major goals: improving student performance in reading/language arts; improving student performance in math; increasing the number of students enrolling in and passing higher-level courses, and improving student attendance.

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