Five years after the Leadership Academy was created to train new principals, the DOE is going to start to pick up the bill for it. Until now, the experimental program was supported with private money. But now, citing an internal study that found Leadership Academy graduates to outperform other principals in student test score gains, the DOE says the program is successful enough that it's willing to foot the bill — which could add up to about $20 million a year. Almost 200 of the city's current principals went through the training program, which has been criticized for focusing more on the logistics of principalship than the pedagogy and for accepting teachers with only a few years of classroom experience for a fast-track to school leadership.
Here's where an independent research verification group, an idea that's been batted around for the next iteration of mayoral control, could play an important role. It's entirely possible that Leadership Academy grads are more skilled than other principals. But we just don't know, and no DOE analysis could satisfy my skepticism. The DOE has an interest in making Leadership Academy principals look successful, so those principals might have received assistance in addition to the academy training. In addition, an independent research board might design an experiment that looked at variables other than test scores, which of course do not make up the entirety of what principals are charged to do.
And anyone sitting outside Tweed Courthouse could point out the frustration some might feel to see the DOE taking on a new $20 million a year commitment while simultaneously cutting funds for schools and for principals to use in carrying out their jobs.