School Leadership Grant Program Details

The Allentown Principal Leadership Initiative (APLI) unites multiple institutions to increase student achievement in the Allentown School District (ASD) by preparing 14 aspiring and 50 practicing school leaders to serve as instructional leaders with strong transformational and entrepreneurial leadership skills. Some distinctive features of the program include: 1) A systems change model to guide the program design for building leadership competencies around successful turnaround strategies in order to ensure students’ readiness to learn, teachers’ readiness to teach, and leaders’ readiness to act; 2) A true partnership that builds the capacity of the ASD to support sustainable growth in its areas of greatest need; 3) A professional development program for all principals and assistant principals in the ASD that addresses the need for change through leadership; 4) An innovative cohort structure facilitating team learning; 5) A collaboratively designed, context-driven, and problem-based curriculum; 6) A full-time, yearlong, rigorous internship for 14 aspiring leaders augmented by ongoing mentoring from both veteran educational leaders and high-performing corporate executives; and 7) Mentoring and support to aspiring leaders through their first year as an assistant principal or principal. Institute for Schools and Society of Temple University will evaluate the project using multiple sources of data, analytical techniques, and pre- and post-assessments of leadership competencies using instruments with high validity and reliability.

Project Goals and Desired Impact
  • Recruit 14 aspiring school leaders, 50% from traditionally underrepresented African American or Hispanic backgrounds, and prepare them with strong turnaround leadership competencies
  • Develop aspiring leader curriculum that serves unique ASD needs, and is standards-driven and inquiry-based
  • Provide a yearlong full-time internship with coaching support from experienced veteran principals and high-performing corporate executives
  • Provide extended mentoring support for newly placed assistant principals and principals
  • Train and retain 50 practicing principals and assistant principals in ASD using flexible and responsive leadership seminars coupled with authentic school-based projects and expert coaching and mentoring from veteran principals and business leaders
  • Develop learning modules with a focus on building the capacity of the practicing leaders to facilitate effective teacher instructional practices through the use of data, Standards Aligned System tools and resources, Response to Instruction and Intervention, the Early Warning System, and the development of student individual learning plans
  • Improve school climate, teacher effectiveness, and student achievement
  • Reduce the achievement gap by 50%
Number of Districts Participating in the SLP Grant
Twenty-six schools from a single school district in Pennsylvania, the Allentown School District. The Allentown School District is the fourth largest district in Pennsylvania serving a predominantly socioeconomically depressed, minority student population.
Number of People and Roles Being Impacted by SLP Grant Programs
  • 2011-2012: 7 (first cohort) aspiring leaders will receive pre-service training and earn their master’s degree and principal certification through the APLI program, ready to serve the high-needs schools in the Allentown School District.
  • 2012-2013: 7 (second cohort) aspiring leaders will receive pre-service training and earn their master’s degree and principal certification through the APLI program, ready to serve the high-needs schools in the Allentown School District.
  • 2011-2015: 50 practicing principals and assistant principals from the Allentown School District will receive continuous professional development, consisting of a minimum of three leadership seminars per year.
Implementation Progress
APLI for Aspiring Leaders
  • Coursework will be collaboratively developed by key partners and course content will be inquiry-based, standards-driven and context-specific.  Adult learning theories, Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Standards, and Allentown School District Framework, Pathways to Success, will guide the coursework development. 
  • Fourteen out of 60 applicants will be selected for enrollment, with 50% coming from traditionally underrepresented African American and Hispanic backgrounds.
  • Ninety percent of the aspiring leaders will demonstrate improvement in instructional leadership measured by the NASSP 21st Century Principal Skill Dimensions at different phases of the APLI program, successfully complete coursework and the internship, and earn their principal certificate.
  • Ninety percent of those placed as principals or assistant principals will remain in their positions in the ASD for at least three years.
APLI for Practicing Leaders
  • Practicing leaders will participate in three, collaboratively developed seminars per year.
  • VAL-ED’s 360° leadership performance assessment will be administered to 100 percent of practicing leaders three times during the course of the project. Ninety percent of participants will demonstrate improvement in their performance in each of the core domains and processes.
  • Each practicing leader will complete a project at his/her school designed to implement the skills learned in the seminars. All participants will receive executive coaching designed to assist with the implementation of the project.
  • One hundred percent of participants will successfully complete required professional development.
  • Turnover of building administrators not due to retirement will decrease by 80% over the course of the five years of the project.
Intermediate and Long-term Impact of APLI
  • School climate will improve.
  • Student achievement and teacher instructional knowledge and pedagogy will increase.
  • Achievement gap will decrease
Data Being Collected to  Evaluate Program Effectiveness
  • Program applicant background
  • Recruitment materials
  • Selection process tracking data
  • NASSP assessment data / VAL-ED data
  • ASD teacher instructional evaluation data
  • Individualized Leadership Plan documents for all aspiring leaders
  • Observation of curriculum sessions for both aspiring and practicing leaders
  • Change in student achievement as measured on PSSA
  • Interview and survey data of APLI participant satisfaction
  • Aspiring leader placement data
  • Parent, school, and community survey data
Implementation Challenges
  • Attracting high-quality minority candidates
  • Frequent personnel changes in the ASD
  • Evaluation of leadership competency
  • Shifting ASD priorities
Intended Goals for the SLP Working Conference
  • Investigate strategies used by other programs to address the aforementioned challenges
  • Identify best practices from other SLP projects
  • Share APLI project successes and frustrations