The Kentucky Chamber Foundation and the state’s business leaders know that for Kentucky to compete in the 21st century, it is imperative that the state’s future leaders be better educated and more skilled when they enter the workforce. Well-educated workers, with the ability to solve problems, work together, and continue to learn throughout their careers, are the key to the state’s future economic competitiveness.

Complicating this fundamental economic reality are pressures for the state’s schools to perform well on new, more rigorous academic standards known as the Common Core. Kentucky was the first state in the country to adopt the more demanding standards, which meant that students, teachers, and school systems were also grappling with changes in their curricula and assessments. Success on these new standards presents an important challenge, but also a vital opportunity to accelerate learning in Kentucky schools.

The Kentucky Chamber understood that the most powerful lever for education improvement is leadership, beginning with the school’s principal. Research shows that strong, effective leadership cascades through a school, changing the culture to one of greater collaboration, driving more effective instruction, and ultimately impacting student learning. Furthermore, a cadre of highly effective school principals could form the core of the next generation of school leadership in the state, as school system superintendents and other senior school administrators typically come from the ranks of principals. This would help ensure sustainable change. The Chamber envisioned a program that would accelerate leadership development and drive positive change within the schools, as principals developed strong professional networks across school systems to support each other professionally and to share best practices.

Traditional models of leadership development often fail to address the complex challenges of an interdependent school system that demand self-awareness, communication skills, strategic leadership, and political savvy. For this reason, the Chamber turned to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), a global nonprofit provider with an over-40-year track record of innovation in developing leaders in industry, education, government, and the nonprofit sector.

In working with the Chamber, CCL drew upon its global and proven experience in working with school systems and built a leadership development program with a customized focus on Kentucky’s needs. The program will span multiple years and engage a new cohort of principals each year. Admission to the program is competitive, with a rigorous application process. Since 2011, 158 principals from schools in 64 counties across Kentucky have graduated from the program.

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