How One District Partnership is Building a Pipeline of Future Leaders
In Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools), a new New Leaders cohort of aspiring leaders has already launched for this school year. City Schools, like many districts across the nation, want to proactively address issues of retention by building pipelines of future talent. “New Leaders provides an alternative route to the principalship,” explains Tracee Frazier, Director, Educator Pipelines & Induction at City Schools.
“The leaders we train remain in their positions longer,” adds Kimberly Washington, New Leaders Executive Director for Program Implementation. “Their persistence is higher.” Washington knows this firsthand. She is a former City Schools administrator and New Leaders alum.
To address high turnover rates, City Schools identifies aspiring leaders—teachers, instructional coaches, assistant principals—as critical leaders to retain and develop. Through our partnership, New Leaders provides a professional learning pathway to build their leadership capacity, develop highly impactful teams, and coach teachers effectively—all in preparation for future principal roles. To date, close to one third of all principals in the district are New Leaders alumni, many of whom have continued to grow professionally and now serve as principal supervisors.
This year, Washington and her team, in partnership with Frazier, will work to ensure the new cohort is “job-ready” by June, which includes showing demonstrated gains in student learning. That is a requirement for every participant to complete the program.
“Oftentimes, participants use our diagnostic tools to tell us where a school is, but their own belief and sense of urgency around how they can lead change right now is a mindset shift,” explains Washington. She attributes that growth mindset shift to three key leadership actions that are central to New Leaders approach.
1. Personal and equity-focused leadership
“How you get people to engage in and follow your vision,” Washington explains, “is essential for leaders.” Personal leadership, which encompasses values, beliefs, and attitudes, influences how leaders interact with students, staff, and families. How they drive for equity. How they advance a shared vision. Equity-focused leaders build school cultures and learning environments free from bias and limitation—which allows all students to thrive. To develop this type of transformational leadership, New Leaders provides individualized coaching that provides actionable feedback that participants can apply right away in their schools.
2. Focus on data
“New Leaders does a great job of teaching residents how to be instructional leaders,” notes Frazier. “More specifically, teaching them how to look at data and use data as a foundation for measuring growth.” Analyzing data and creating action steps based on that data are critical leadership practices that participants engage in daily, including using data protocols with teachers to inform lesson planning and with teams during collaborative meetings. This same emphasis on data is what drives participants to deliver measurable student gains across a grade level or team by the end of the school year.
3. Team leadership
Research shows that the best school leaders do not lead in isolation; they develop the capacity of the leaders around them and build high-performing teams that can drive data-informed decisions for the whole school community. Participants learn how to set a vision collaboratively, establish norms, and work together as a team. This job-embedded practice enables participants to move into leadership roles with greater ease and confidence. “The principals who support our aspiring leaders know they will be impactful during the year. That’s why everyone wants to have them in their schools,” adds Washington.
City Schools is committed to investing in its leaders. Our partnership is deeply supported by the philanthropic community in Baltimore, including the T. Rowe Price Foundation, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Abell Foundation, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, and a host of other dedicated partners who champion this work. “Our partnership is open and collaborative,” observes Frazier. “I meet regularly with the New Leaders team and whatever gaps we see in participants, which can vary from year to year, they are quick to adapt and add support. They keep our leaders at the center.”
Since 2005, when our partnership first began, New Leaders has developed 375 leaders in the district. In addition to growing and strengthening the pipeline of equity-focused instructional leaders and assistant principals throughout City Schools, many of those leaders, according to Washington, give back to the district. They continue to lead either as principals, become principal supervisors, or serve as mentor principals for each new cohort of aspiring leaders.
“City Schools,” Washington reflects, “is a phenomenal partner. They value our work. We value them. They invest in their people.” This partnership, adds Frazier, “is critical to our pipeline.”