In 2014, NCEE was awarded a $12 million U.S. Department of Education Validation-level Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to study a large-scale implementation of its NISL program. The study encompasses delivery across three states—California, Florida and Mississippi.
The Validation-level i3 grants are highly competitive awards “aimed at validating and spreading promising programs on a state or regional scale.” NCEE’s proposal was selected on the basis of the initiative’s significance—including its ability to address “a challenge for which there is a national need for solutions that are better than the solutions currently available”— its ability to scale, the quality of the project design and management plan, and the quality of the project evaluation.
The i3 grant to NCEE, with backing from the Wallace Foundation, now supports principals in 88 districts that serve nearly 1.7 million students, many from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Training began in September 2015 and will provide rigorous and comprehensive leadership support to 750 principals throughout the duration of the grant. In doing so, this initiative will directly impact the learning of 375,000 students, roughly equaling the total students to be served by all other 2014 i3 grants combined. District-designated staff in all three states will be trained and certified to deliver the NISL program to future cohorts, ensuring sustainability and scalability beyond the life of the grant.
In addition to the wide-scale impact of the support provided by the grant, the initiative will also produce a “gold standard” study of NISL and coaching. This study, conducted by a team of external evaluators from the RAND Corporation, will use a rigorous randomized control trial design. The researchers will assess the impact of the three-state effort on principals, teachers and students. The external evaluators have calculated that 93,334 students have been impacted during the first year of the grant period.
NISL is now the most widely used, rigorous school leadership development program in the country with more than 8,000 school leaders trained across 25 states. Multiple research studies have shown that students in schools led by NISL-trained leaders outperformed their peers on state tests in both math and reading.