Bennet Introduces Bill to Prepare, Support Principals to Help Turn Around Lowest Performing Schools

Lead Act Will Provide Training and Continued Support for Nation's Best Principals to Transform our Lowest Performing Schools

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, today introduced a bill to help prepare principals to lead transformations to turnaround our lowest performing schools.  

The Lead Act would create opportunities, including a School Leadership Academy and local School Leadership Centers of Excellence, for the best principals in Colorado and across the country to get the training and support they need to go into the schools where they are needed most and successfully lead the transformation of the lowest performing schools.  

“As a former school superintendent, I know strong leadership from our principals can help increase student performance, improve teacher retention and transform the entire atmosphere and culture of a school,” said Bennet.  “We need to train and support principals to target their talents where they are needed most – in our lowest performing schools. And, we must continue to learn and make improvements as we work to improve these schools based on the failure and success around the country.”

The School Leadership Academy will develop a leadership training program and related activities that will result in successful turnarounds as well as establish a framework for the local Centers.  The School Leadership Centers of Excellence will train and support principals and mentors to lead successful school turnarounds.  The Centers will be run by partnerships between non-profits, institutions of higher education and state or local education agencies.  At least one Center will specialize in training principals to serve rural areas.  
Only 2,000 high schools – 12 percent of all high schools – produce more than half of the country’s dropouts.  The quality of school leadership is second only to teacher quality among school-related factors in its effect on student learning.  Currently, there is a shortage of principals who can lead these transformation efforts in our lowest performing schools, especially in rural areas.  Teachers cite quality principals as critical to their decisions to stay in high-need schools.  

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Establish a School Leadership Academy to develop a leadership training program to turn around low-performing schools;
  • Bring together experts with stakeholders in the field to collect and develop a core body of knowledge regarding effective practice that is evidence-based and tested over time;
  • Create and maintain an infrastructure to provide open source professional development materials for principals and other school leaders;
  • Establish Regional School Leadership Centers of Excellence to train and support principals and mentors to lead successful school turnarounds; and
  • Provide for a base of research and evaluation to assess the effectiveness of professional development programs and disseminate the findings and best practices.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) is planning to introduce a similar bill in the House.

Bennet is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is part of the committee’s negotiating team crafting a bill to reform No Child Left Behind.