CMS chosen for Wallace Foundation grant
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is among six urban districts chosen to receive a Wallace Foundation grant to develop a pipeline of school leadership and measure its effect on student achievement.

The grant, announced Aug. 23, will help CMS and the other districts build a larger pool of prospective principals. The initiative has four key parts to ensure a pool of principals that is adequate for district needs and brings in highly effective leaders. The parts are defining the role of the principal/assistant principal; pre-service training; selective hiring, and on-the-job evaluation and support.

The total grant amount being given to the six school districts is $75 million and it will be given over a five-year period. CMS will receive $7.5 million, $2 million in the 2011-2012 school year and the balance over the remaining four years.

“School leadership is a critical factor in helping students learn and raising student achievement,” said Hugh E. Hattabaugh, interim superintendent of CMS. “We are grateful to the Wallace Foundation for this substantial gift, which will help us identify, recruit and retain strong principals for our schools.”

CMS was chosen because it has already begun developing strong principals in a variety of ways. The district has several leadership programs in place, including its Strategic Staffing Initiative, which puts strong principals and leadership teams into struggling schools. Strategic Staffing has led to increased achievement, and the district has put it in place at 21 schools.

The district also has active partnerships with the national group New Leaders for New Schools, with Winthrop University and with Queens University to train potential leaders. CMS also uses internally developed programs to help find and train effective leaders, including principals, assistant principals and teachers.

The other five districts chosen were Denver; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Hillsborough County, Florida; New York City, and Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The grants require that the districts provide a third of the total investment in building the pipeline, with the other two-thirds supplied by Wallace. CMS will use $1.29 million in existing, funded programs, as well as staff time, to satisfy the matching-funds requirement.

 “For the past decade, Wallace and its partners have helped identify objectively what it takes to shape a principal who can improve teaching and learning, especially in troubled city schools,” said Will Miller, president of the Wallace Foundation. “We have now selected exemplary urban districts that are well on their way to putting in place the training and support necessary to have enough effective principals for all of their schools. The crucial question these grants and the associated research will explore is: can building a stronger principal pipeline improve teaching quality and student achievement district-wide?”

CMS and the other districts will also participate in an independent evaluation of the pipeline’s effectiveness. In the sixth year after the grant begins, researchers will measure the effects of the principals hired through the pipeline on achievement at their schools. The Wallace Foundation will select the researchers, who will periodically publish results from their findings.

The Wallace Foundation is also giving $850,000 to two nonprofit organizations to provide assistance to the districts and to manage a peer learning community among them so that the six districts, including CMS can exchange ideas, discuss common problems and engage with the evaluators and other experts.

The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for children. The foundation maintains an online library of lessons at www.wallacefoundation.org about what it has learned.