Effective school leadership is key to increasing academic achievement, especially in schools serving English learners and economically challenged students.

“School leaders steer the ship. Teacher-leaders may take the helm at times,” said Dr. Beverly J. Irby, College of Education & Human Development Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and principal investigator on a new three-year project. “Leadership definitely matters in the success of a school. As the leader is—so goes the school.”

Dr. Irby was recently notified by U.S. Representative Bill Flores about the grant award.

The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education for $13.69 million, is called Accelerated Preparation of Leaders for Underserved Schools (A-PLUS): Building Instructional Capacity to Impact Diverse Learners. The grant also has a $6.11 private sector match.

The project incorporates multiple innovative approaches to developing school leaders, including opportunities for earning an online master’s degree in educational administration, virtual mentoring and coaching, professional learning environments and communities, and a Summer Leadership Institute. A-PLUS also investigates the efficacy of different types of principal/school leader residency programs.

“A-PLUS will serve over 2,300 school leaders to increase the number of highly effective principals and other school leaders for high-needs campuses,” Dr. Irby said.

The project is housed in the Education Leadership Research Center (ELRC) and the Center for Research & Development in Language & Literacy Acquisition (CRDLLA). A-PLUS co-principal investigators include Drs. Mario Torres, Education Administration and Human Resource Development department head; Rafael Lara-Alecio, Regents Professor; and Fuhui Tong, associate professor of bilingual education.

A-PLUS is one of only 12 projects funded nationally under the 2017 Supporting Effective Educator Development Grant Program.