NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy Issues Report on NYC Leadership Academy


Public elementary and middle schools in New York City led by “Aspiring Principals Program”-trained principals have achieved comparable or higher rates of student improvement than schools led by other new principals, according to a report released today by New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP). These results were obtained even though APP-trained principals were more likely to be placed in chronically low-performing schools.

Researchers at IESP conducted the first independent evaluation of the NYC Leadership Academy’s Aspiring Principals Program (APP) to determine the effects of this program on student outcomes. The study uses regression analysis with a “before and after” design-analyzing the schools both before and after the APP principal was assigned to the school-to account for initial differences in the schools. The analysis sought to determine whether principals trained in this preparatory program generated results that were different from other new principals not trained by the Leadership Academy.

The study was made possible by support from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

The study shows that APP graduates were placed in schools that had long operated below other city schools and whose student outcomes for years fell relative to city-wide performance. However, under their leadership, English Language Arts (ELA) scores began to improve at rates apace with city-wide trends. By their third year, ELA scores in APP schools were improving faster than those in comparison schools.

“These results represent a promising sign that over time, APP-trained principals will continue making high academic gains in some of our city’s most troubled schools,” said Amy Ellen Schwartz, director of NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy.

Specifically, the study of the Aspiring Principals Program demonstrates:

  • During their first three years, elementary and middle school APP principals had comparable or better growth trends than comparison principals. APP principals bettered their comparison group counterparts in ELA, trending upward apace with overall city-wide gains. In math, both APP and comparison schools scores improved over time and at a rate similar to the citywide average.
  • APP principals were more likely to be placed in schools with lower student performance levels. The average student in elementary and middle schools in which APP principals were placed performed substantially below their citywide grade level average in ELA and math in the years before the new principal arrived, while students in comparison schools scored at the citywide grade-level average.
  • APP and comparison principals were placed in schools with different demographic profiles. At both the elementary/middle and high school levels, APP schools enrolled fewer Asian and white students and had a significantly greater share of black students than comparison schools.
  • APP and comparison principals have different characteristics. APP principals are younger than the comparison group principals, and, on average, have three fewer years of teaching experience.

“The results of this analysis are encouraging, indicating that the NYC Leadership Academy has succeeded in bringing new principals to some of NYC’s most challenging schools and curtailing their downward trends,” said Sean Corcoran, assistant professor of educational economics and co-author of the study.

The study also noted that test scores of students under APP principals may continue to improve in the future since APP principals have been able to stabilize and increase performance on standardized tests rather than falling further behind citywide 500

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