New Leaders Publishes Distributed Leadership Toolkit

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Today, New Leaders published a suite of resources to support policymakers to make evidence-based decisions regarding their leadership investments: the Distributed Leadership Toolkit.

The Toolkit includes a Policy Primer, which summarizes findings from a review of 70+ distributed leadership reports and articles as well as a landscape analysis of each state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. From there, it outlines key actions federal, state, and local leaders can take to foster effective distributed leadership approaches. There is also a detailed summary of the Literature Review Findings, which offers details on the studies that informed the policy takeaways.

“Schools that support teachers and other members of the school community in taking initiative and exercising leadership over their work look and feel different from schools where decision-making and influence are more centralized,” the reports states. “A growing body of research, backed by the experience of teachers and school leaders across the country, supports the notion that expanding leadership—or ‘distributing leadership’—is a critical strategy for addressing the professional needs of educators, catalyzing existing and nascent leadership within a school community, and achieving real, sustained results for students.”

Key findings from the distributed leadership research include:

  • 18 states have included distributed leadership approaches in their ESSA plans;
  • 6 key elements are present in all successful distributed leadership models, including an effective principal; and
  • 5 school and student outcomes may be possible when these research-based elements are in place.

Of note, the report explains how those school and students outcomes meet evidence requirements under federal law. For example, there is strong evidence that distributed leadership promotes collaboration and teacher leadership, and promising evidence that it may increase teacher job satisfaction and student achievement.

To bring the research and policy takeaways to life, the Toolkit includes a series of vignettes that showcase distributed leadership approaches in California, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas, illustrating what is possible for schools and students when supportive, evidence-based practices and conditions are in place.

The report was developed and published with support from the Joyce Foundation and the Barr Foundation.


To equip students with real choices in life and build schools that reflect our hopes and dreams for the future, we need determined, unwavering school leaders committed to the truth that every student can excel. New Leaders forges deep partnerships to equip school leaders at all levels to be powerful and positive forces for change. We provide best-in-class leadership training that ensures schools are set up to provide all students with challenging, engaging learning experiences in every classroom, every day, year after year. To date, we have developed 4,000 leaders who annually reach more than half a million students in communities across the country. To support even more students and communities, we champion evidence-based policies that reflect the transformative power of exceptional school leaders and that break down structural and institutional barriers to student achievement and educational equity. By transforming our schools, we’ll transform our society.