For 13 years, NYCLA’s Aspiring Principals Program (APP) has selected, prepared and supported more than 500 aspiring New York City public school leaders for high-need schools. APP is a nationally recognized, 14-month program that uses experiential learning methods to provide aspiring principals with the real-world skills necessary to transform schools on behalf of students. Various components of the program have since been adapted by a dozen partners nationwide.

The summer intensive, which launches APP in New York City, is an integral component of the program. The curriculum uses problem- and research-based learning methodologies to simulate the role of a principal in a struggling school. Participants develop the skills to create actionable plans for school improvement and to become instructional leaders capable of changing student outcomes. These future leaders learn how to analyze and leverage school data, effectively allocate resources, understand and influence school culture, and develop those characteristics necessary for the delivery of high-quality educational student experiences.

One participant reflects on his experience by sharing, “Parts of these days have thrown me off balance. I’ve learned how to learn publicly, under pressure, and with scrutiny. I used to think that it’s learning how to ‘do.’ Now it is learn how to ‘be.’” Participant progress is tracked using NYCLA’s research-based set of core leadership competencies.

For the first three weeks of this year’s program, 10 aspiring leaders from Buffalo Public Schools (NY) learned side-by-side with 20 peers from New York City, a unique opportunity for these future leaders to benefit from sharing experiences and perspectives. A participant from Buffalo describes the experience, saying, “Working with the NYC group has broadened the scope and diversity of the professional community we work within. We discuss how the same mission is carried out in different places. We compare everything but it usually ends with the students.” Participants from Buffalo will complete the final part of their summer training in their school district with NYCLA’s facilitators.

NYCLA also helped Cleveland Metropolitan School District launch its own Aspiring Principals Academy, an adaptation of APP, with 10 participants selected from a pool of 153 applicants. The district is wrapping up a five-week intensive training modeled closely after our New York City-based summer intensive, with adaptations to fit the needs and contextual elements found in Cleveland’s schools.

Aspiring leaders in New York City and Cleveland will spend part of the next academic year in residencies at schools led by mentor principals. This experience, combined with ongoing professional development, will further prepare them to transform schools on behalf of students.