Solutions for States and Districts
States and districts typically have significant numbers of principals seeking to go from "good" to "great." Several of these entities have turned to NISL and its Executive Development Program. Carrollton-Farmers (TX) Independent School District, a 23,000-student district near Dallas, for example, was one of these. The district had been rated "acceptable" under the Texas accountability system, a good performance considering that 78 percent of the enrolled students were minorities. NISL started working with the district in 2005, first training a team that included Superintendent Annette Griffin and other district and school leaders. After the third year working together, the district's accountability rating improved to "recognized." Sheila Maher, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, credited NISL for helping to raise student achievement.
"The program is designed to equip principals with the tools and knowledge needed to lead their schools to become high-performing schools with high expectations and high student achievement for all," says Ms. Maher. "They are knowledgeable about national and international data, the thinking of key leaders in the field, a standards-based instructional system, principles of teaching and learning, and the skills to provide a high-quality education for all students. All the components of the NISL program – from the books, articles, written case studies, video case studies, to the simulations – contribute to the effectiveness of NISL. I highly recommend the NISL program to any district."
Districts that are in corrective action or have schools not meeting adequate yearly progress have turned to NISL to provide training and ongoing guidance for their principals. For example, NISL began working with the Holyoke (MA) Public Schools in 2007 as a state-approved intervention included in its corrective action plan. To spark quick action, rather than train trainers, NISL responded to the district's call for support by bringing prominent NISL faculty members into the district to provide direct training.
NISL has been working throughout the state of Massachusetts for several years. To date, more than 1,000 principals have participated in NISL's Executive Development Program, many of whom, like those in the Holyoke district, are in the process of turning around their schools.
NISL's programs can also be used to train new and aspiring principals. In Pennsylvania, for example, NISL has trained numerous cohorts largely comprising new or assistant principals. To better serve the state's needs, NISL modified its course materials for the unique challenges these inexperienced leaders face in becoming strong instructional leaders. Each cohort included experienced administrators who provided valuable mentoring and support to the new leaders, both in and out of class. "Each of us was assigned a mentor who not only attended the workshops, but also visited our buildings and met with us individually," says Benita Draper-Terry, an elementary school principal in Bethlehem. "This has allowed us to share what we have learned and receive ideas about how we can use the strategies and techniques from the program within our schools."
Several districts have utilized NISL as the core of their learning community. For example, Chambersburg (PA) School District not only included its principals in its cohort; it also included assistant principals, lead teachers, and district staff members. This allowed strong bonds to develop within the team; it created a common language for talking about the barriers that existed to high student achievement; and it provided strong tools that the entire team could utilize together to reach the district's goals. Other districts that NISL has worked with have included lead teachers, high school department heads, and other teacher leaders in the training.
In addition, districts and states are utilizing NISL's topical Institutes as a valuable resource to address specific school challenges for a wide range of educators, from superintendents and sitting principals to curriculum specialists and teachers. These topics include Students with Disabilities, English Language Learners, and Excellence in Science.