Sustainable Leadership Pipelines


SEN’s leadership programs help school systems attract and retain top talent by providing successful early-career teachers with recognition and highlighting the pathway to future career advancement. 

Establishing tiers in the career ladder creates a school-based leadership lab through which principals and the district can identify candidates who are achieving positive results, and then gradually teach them to share their skills and knowledge with a growing set of peers. Lead teachers are introduced to coaching, working with a single peer while continuing to perfect their classroom practice. Master teachers work with a cohort of teachers and begin to develop group leadership skills by directing staff professional development and teacher teams. Small Learning Community (SLC) leaders take on the full set of administrative responsibilities for a subset of the school, managing instruction, culture, discipline, and operational decisions. The career ladder has a pyramid structure, with the greater number of participants at the bottom level, enabling a rigorous selection of only the strongest performers to move on to the next level, thus improving the quality of the overall leadership pipeline.

lead teachers

Lead teachers are high performers, typically early in their career, who are eager to improve their own teaching practice and to learn to coach their peers. Lead teachers spend 75% of their time teaching, continuing to perfect their craft, and 25% of their time coaching a peer teacher.  

master teachers

Master teachers are typically more experienced teachers who have consistently achieved excellent student outcomes and have some experience leading adults. Master teachers spend ~20% of their time leading a model classroom and the remainder of their time developing their skills in instructional leadership. In addition to coaching peers, master teachers help implement the school’s overall strategy and lead groups of teachers in the development of best practices.


SLC leaders are experienced educators ready to lead turnaround teams in struggling schools. SLC leaders are coached to be the instructional leader for the staff and the cultural leader for the school community. They have a vision for quality instruction and the ability to inspire community stakeholders in the value of the school strategy. Successful SLC leaders are prepared to be school principals in the next step of their development.


SEN employs a rigorous search process to identify proactive, visionary educators that take personal responsibility for teacher actions and student results. This thorough vetting process identifies leaders with a clear vision for what will make their school special and successful, based on deep knowledge and evidence-based best practices and a proven ability to lead adults to collectively improve student outcomes. Our programs provide ongoing direction and support to help participants formulate and bring to life their school strategies, and to maintain positive momentum in the face of the inevitable challenges they will encounter in their new roles.


School leaders cannot affect change on their own. We teach school leaders to build consensus and gain buy-in, but rates of success increase dramatically when leaders start their leadership work with allies in place. Once the most promising individuals have been selected, SEN groups them in instructional leadership teams and places them in school turnaround settings, where their critical mass allows them to have a significant and immediate impact on school culture.


The SEN Leadership Institute (SLI) prepares leaders to guide their faculty in enthusiastically embracing their vision for improvement. The development program centers around two essential challenges of turnaround work:

  • Students must be taught grade-appropriate, standards-aligned work that puts them on a path for college and career readiness. However, many students in turnaround schools are several grade levels behind their peers, and have little experience with the habits and approaches required to be successful in a rigorous school. Leaders in SEN’s programs are taught to maintain high standards while providing students the targeted support needed so they are not set up for failure.
  • Students and staff should enjoy coming to school. A positive school culture focused on celebrating learning is a must for building momentum in a turnaround setting. However, students attending turnaround schools have often spent years without clear expectations for behavior or positive relationships with adults in a school community. Students require redirection as standards for a culture of learning are established. SEN-trained leaders learn to create a family-like school atmosphere, in which students are taught to meet expectations over time, without alienating students and families through repeat suspensions and a culture of punishment.

The SLI curriculum addresses these challenges with:

  • A focus on an aligned instructional approach across classrooms that starts with planning from the standards.
  • A data-driven approach that identifies and adjusts to student learning gaps in real time.
  • A school design in which every student is well known by an adult advocate.
  • Extended learning time and individualized support for those that need it.
  • School culture systems that center around relationships, personal responsibility, and an orientation to build on the positive.  

After conducting recruitment and selection during the fall, we work with selected leadership teams to establish a vision for their school and a strategic implementation plan. Special emphasis is placed on the introduction to staff before the start of the year of core values, foundational expectations, and the accompanying systems and structures.

Once teams are in place, SEN’s coursework and coaching help leadership teams continually refine their focus, adjust plans to clear site-specific hurdles, and keep schools moving towards their improvement goals. Listed below are some of the high-leverage topics in the School Leader and Master and Lead Teacher Programs.

 School Leader Program Master and Lead Teacher Program
Programmatic components - Coursework
- One-on-one coaching
- Coursework
- One-on-one coaching
Topics covered in coursework - Vision setting
- Strategic planning
- Distributive leadership
- Defining school culture
- Planning and facilitating quality PD
- Teacher collaboration
- Rigorous unit and lesson planning
- Developing and supporting quality instruction
- Data-driven instruction
- Academic support/RTI
- Social-emotional support
- Operational support for turnaround vision and goals
- Relationship building and restorative practices
- Vision setting
- Supporting the vision as part of a team
- Observation and feedback
- Designing and facilitating PD
- Influencing others
- Rigorous unit and lesson planning
- Planning and implementing classroom strategies (e.g., differentiation of instruction, increasing rigor, literacy across the curriculum)
- Curriculum oversight and feedback
Coaching activities - Strategic planning and progress monitoring on school goals/benchmarks
- Reviewing systems (e.g., observation/feedback, grade level meetings, Instructional Leadership Team meetings)
- Co-observing classrooms
- Observing PD/PLC meeting
- Observation of leader leading a feedback meeting
- School walkthroughs
- Co-observing classrooms and planning feedback
- Observing and providing feedback on master/lead teacher’s teaching
- Observing PD/PLC meeting
- Observation of MT/LT leading a feedback meeting
Bi-weekly time commitment - Full day coaching at schools with full leadership teams including two hours of individual coaching for school leader
- 2 -3 hours of coursework
- Full-day coaching at schools with full leadership teams including one hour of individual coaching for each master and lead teacher
- 2-3 hours of coursework


Participants in our programs are expected to produce tangible, measurable results for their schools beginning in the first year of implementation.  With our programs in place we expect to see improvements in the following areas:

  • Success developing and implementing a turnaround action plan based upon a formal needs assessment (conducted by SEN and district leadership).
  • Positive impact on teacher effectiveness: teacher growth in observation / evaluation ratings and teacher retention.
  • Positive impact on student performance on assessments at the school level, district level, and national level. 
  • Impact on school climate and culture: improvement in student engagement in classrooms and increase in student on-culture behaviors outside classrooms. 
  • Portfolio assessments: products from the field (e.g., data analysis and lesson plan feedback).
  • Leadership rubric: evaluation of competency mastery based on deliverables and in-school performance.
  • Teacher, student, and community feedback: formal and informal surveys.