NCEE’s System Design Benchmarking (SDB) strengthens district leadership teams and the districts they lead. Participants assess their current system while building their capacity to drive system-level district improvements to achieve equity, excellence, and efficiency. SDB participants develop an understanding of the urgency for system design, learn the structure and essential components of the world’s highest performing education systems, study incentives and processes that support rigorous and adaptive learning systems and effective teachers and principals, and explore the equitable foundation of supports that are essential in high-performing systems.


The SDB is delivered over eight days of professional learning divided into four two-day sessions spread out over a six- to eight-week period. Cohorts may include district leadership teams (up to 36 participants), including the superintendent, senior district administrators, and key stakeholders such as board members, principals, teacher-leader representatives, and union heads, etc.


The SDB’s curriculum draws from NCEE’s research on the highest-performing education systems in the world and the best leadership development programs from education, the military, medicine, and business. The SDB is tailored executive development, with case studies, research reports, and technical notes providing the foundation for discussion, while district administrators and school leaders bring the curriculum to life through the application of their own unique set of experiences and expertise. These sessions are facilitated by NCEE faculty who are experts in the fields of facilitation, leadership, system design, international comparative research, and strategic thinking.

The district leadership team will use contextual analysis tools to conduct an in-depth assessment of their current system—its structures, processes, incentives, and supports— relative to the policies and practices associated with school systems that have achieved equity, excellence, and efficiency.

University Partners/CEUs

NCEE partnerships allow participants to receive advanced credit or degrees for completing NCEE offerings. Learn more about credit opportunities.

Further offerings

Superintendents Alliance

NCEE’s Superintendents Alliance is a professional learning organization for sitting U.S. superintendents. Member benefits include access to world-renowned experts, focused learning opportunities, and action-oriented networking with peers.