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Wallace Foundation Gives $75 Million to Bolster School Leadership

The New York-based Wallace Foundation will give $75 million over the next five years to six school districts who are working on comprehensive methods to identify, train, evaluate and support principals.

The six districts to receive the funds are: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Denver; Gwinnett County, Ga.; Hillsborough County, Fla; New York City; and Prince George's County, Md. Wallace will give each district between $7.5 million and $12.5 million, and, as a condition of the grants, the districts will contribute one- third of their grant amount in local matching funds.

About $21 million will be devoted to the first phase of the initiative, which will include $17 million to the districts, $3.5 million for independent research of the principal development efforts and their connection to student learning, and $850,000 for learning opportunities and expertise to be provided to the districts.

The Wallace Foundation supports coverage of leadership, expanded learning time, and arts learning in Education Week.

Will Miller, who became the second president of the Wallace Foundation in July, said in an interview yesterday that 90 districts were originally under consideration but were winnowed down to six. The foundation was looking for districts that already had in place rigorous requirements, high-quality principal training, and on-the-job supports for school leaders. But "even the best districts only have pieces of this," Miller said.

Through the initiative, the foundation hopes to answer this question: If the education establishment generally agrees that principals are second only to teachers in influencing student learning, can efforts to improve leadership lead to higher achievement? And can these efforts, if successful, be implemented on a large scale?

Miller said that the foundation intends to release several reports on its efforts, including one in the next 18 to 24 months. "We want to create more knowledge that can be used outside the six districts," he said.

Glenn Pethel, the director of leadership development for the 162,000-student Gwinnett district north of Atlanta, said that the grant will beef up the district's current efforts, which include a leadership program for aspiring school leaders and a two-year-long mentorship program for novice principals.

"We want to extend what we do, we want to refine it, and we want to think more deeply," Mr. Pethel said. The grant will allow the district "to ratchet up our practice to an even higher level."

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