Case and Need

Why Do We Exist?

In 2009, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged states to transform over 5,000 of the lowest-performing schools in the country.  Twelve percent of the nation’s high schools account for half of the country’s dropouts generally, and almost three-quarters of the children who drop out are children of color. 

The mission of SLN responds to this urgent cry for reform by focusing efforts on the school leader to expand educational opportunity for all students.  We accomplish this by transforming school leaders into empowered, highly effective change agents who improve school culture and drive increased student achievement at their schools.

To achieve this mission, School Leaders Network provides the structure for public school principals to work together in SLN Networks, guided by highly skilled SLN Facilitators, using the research-based SLN Design for Leading to solve real problems, across whole campuses, as opposed to teacher-by-teacher.

Learning and Development for Principals Overlooked

Researchers in the field of principal development have called in-service research “paltry” and “insufficient.”[i]  And for most principals, the appointment to the head of the school marks the end to their formal learning.[ii]  As a result of this broken development pathway, principals are simply not tooled and supported well enough to be the leaders our students need.

Researchers additionally find that principals frequently do not recognize their own learning or psychological needs and all too often, school leaders’ failure to recognize their own needs wears them down to the point of leaving the profession. Studies document that:

  • Fewer than 50% of elementary school principals engaged in activities to improve instruction,[iii]
  • Nationally, superintendents reported that only 41% of their principals are effective leaders,[iv] and
  • Greater than 70% of charter school principals plan to leave their school within 5 years.[v]

The Solution

School Leaders Network is uniquely poised to address these problems.  Our work situates school leader learning within the context of real school leadership issues.  Principals gain support and development from each other as they collaboratively work to solve problems, learn from research and school study, and analyze leadership practices that work.  The SLN Program focuses principal learning and dialogue on those skills, practices, and behaviors that research has shown to leverage student achievement gains most significantly.  


[i] Daresh, J. C. & M. A. Playko (1992); Darling-Hammond, L., et al.,( 2007).

[ii] Baker, B.D, Orr, M.T., Young, M.D. (2007) Academic Drift, Institutional Production and Professional Distribution of Graduate Degrees in Educational Administration. Educational Administration Quarterly, 43 (3) 279-318. 

[iii] Leithwood, K. A., & Montgomery, D. J. (1982). The role of the elementary school principal in program improvement. Review of Educational Research, 52(3), 309-339.

[iv] Farkas, S., et al.(2001).

[v] Campbell, C. (2010) You're leaving?  Succession and sustainability in charter schools.  Center on Reinventing Public Education.  University of Washington.  Seattle Washington.