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George W. Bush Institute and New Leaders release report on district conditions to support school leadership

June 10, 2014


Today, the George W. Bush Institute’s Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) and New Leaders, Inc. released a framework outlining the conditions necessary for leaders to transform schools.

Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions That Enable All Principals to Be Effective and the Great Principals at Scale Toolkit are results of the Conditions for Effective Leadership Project, which included more than 20 education and leadership experts brought together by the Bush Institute and New Leaders.

School leaders are critical in the lives of students and to the development of their teachers. Unfortunately, in too many instances, principals are effective in spite of – rather than because of – district conditions. To truly improve student achievement for all students across the country, well-prepared principals need the tools, support, and culture that enable them to be the best.

The Great Principals at Scale report and Toolkit offer a framework of conditions that can help districts enable great school leadership. One finding from the report is that effective districts’ central office staffs and school-level leaders see one another as partners in meeting students’ needs. There is balanced autonomy in which school leaders are expected to support district-wide priorities, goals, and initiatives—but they also have discretion, within guidelines and subject to approval, to implement them in ways that fit the context and needs of their schools. Effective districts also provide principals with more authority to make staffing decisions, and they make the principal role more doable by encouraging and enabling distribution of leadership to other staff in the school building and by ensuring that district-wide systems are run effectively so that principals can focus on the most critical leadership tasks.  

In emphasizing the critical importance of the conditions within which principals work, Margaret Spellings, president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, said, “Working to recruit and develop high quality principals won’t produce the improvements in student achievement our country needs without also establishing effective conditions in which these principals can thrive.”

The Toolkit which accompanies the Great Principals work was developed to help school system leaders assess their current leadership conditions and offers ways to improve those conditions to drive student achievement gains.

New Leaders CEO Jean Desravines noted: “Theory and research are only beneficial if they drive actions that ultimately help our students. I’m confident that the Toolkit that accompanies the Great Principals report will be a great resource to districts who want to assess and implement effective conditions to support principals’ and schools’ successes.”


Housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the George W. Bush Institute is an action-oriented, non-partisan policy organization with the mission of advancing freedom by expanding opportunities for individuals at home and across the globe. It raises current and thought-provoking issues and builds programs to address the challenges facing our Nation and our world. The work of the Bush Institute is inspired by the principles that guided the Bushes in public life: freedom is a universal human desire; free enterprise is the engine of economic prosperity; education is the foundation of a successful life; and every human life is precious.

Rooted in President and Mrs. Bush’s belief that “excellent schools must first have excellent leaders,” the Bush Institute developed the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) to dramatically improve the way our Nation’s principals are prepared and supported. AREL is the Bush Institute’s flagship program which signifies that school leaders are critical in the lives of our children. Because every child deserves an excellent principal, AREL shapes its ideas and actions around its mission of ensuring there is an effective principal, able to significantly advance student achievement, at the helm of every school. For more information, visit www.bushcenter.org. 


New Leaders is a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders and promotes the system-level conditions that allow strong leaders to succeed. Founded in 2000, New Leaders has trained more than 1,400 school leaders who are raising student achievement and graduation rates in high-need schools across the country. Beyond its signature principal training program, New Leaders conducts leadership development with existing school and district administrators, and designs effective leadership policies and practices for school systems nationwide. For more information, visit www.newleaders.org.