Our Impact: Marshall Leadership Institute

Developing transformational leaders for all schools.

Our goals for the Marshall Leadership Institute go beyond simply building a pipeline of strong and diverse educators entering leadership. Since our founding, we have developed and implemented programs that nurture leaders through their entire career journey — from the moment a teacher first considers becoming a school leader, through the early stages of leadership, to the time they’re ready to lead change beyond the walls of a single school.

But there’s more to be done. Real educational transformation will occur when school systems are able to cultivate their own leaders. That’s why our focus this past year has been developing the capacity of our school partners to sustain their own pipelines of excellent, diverse school leaders.

This explicit capacity-building approach has allowed us to accelerate our impact. We’re building on our foundational pedagogy — proven over 20 years with more than 200 leaders — to provide a training and development program for today’s challenges and a wide and growing array of partner schools.

What We're Doing

Developing Outstanding School Leaders Along the Entire Career Path

What began as leadership development just for aspiring and early-stage leaders has since become much more.

In the 2022–23 school year, the Marshall Leadership Institute expanded its programming to launch a customized Aspiring Leader Program for DSST Public Schools, the largest charter network in Colorado. The Marshall Leadership Institute shared its pedagogy and approach for strengthening leaders’ foundational skills within each leadership phase. Together with DSST senior leadership, we led the customization of our signature curriculum to fit the unique context of their schools. The DSST Aspiring Leader Program was aligned to their larger leadership pipeline development strategy and the program now serves 89% of their school campuses.

In addition, we continue to partner with the Washington State Charter Schools Association by leading WA Charters Transformative Leader Fellowship (TLF), to nurture new leaders from the global majority and to support seasoned leaders’ skill development. The cohort continues to serve 70% of charter schools in the state of Washington, and over half of participants are leaders of color.

These offerings support and develop school leaders along their entire career path, building a diverse collective of courageous and self-reflective leaders.


Strengthening the Diversity of the Leadership Pipeline

Sixty-five percent of our participants identify as leaders of color. But our commitment to diversity is about more than numbers.

We believe in the power of heterogeneous groups to create better leaders, as each member of the group learns from others’ experiences and grows stronger through exposure to others’ perspectives. Our intentional cohort-based learning communities facilitate rich conversations that value diversity and expand the perspectives of all participants.

The racial diversity of our leadership cohorts stands in stark contrast to the leadership in American schools. Roughly 78% of principals nationwide are White, despite an increasingly diverse student population. This disparity hurts both teachers and students. However, at schools that gain a Black principal, Black teachers are also more likely to be hired — and a more diverse teacher population improves student outcomes in the short and long term.


Training Leaders Who Get Hired into Leadership Positions

Ninety-four percent of aspiring leaders who applied to leadership positions were offered those roles. This success rate is by design.

Our intensive, problem-based practice exposes aspiring leaders to actual problem scenarios encountered in early leadership positions, and allows them to build practical skills. Leaders read, discuss, understand, and apply learning to contemporary school dilemmas and real-world school leadership situations. They establish their own leadership styles, practice high-stakes decision-making in authentic school contexts, and reflect on their experiences and growth. This performance-rich learning cycle, in turn, prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of leadership ahead.

“This program offers new and up and coming leaders a space for growth, feedback, and achievement. Through different scenarios we were able to dive into what the role of a school leader truly entails. This is not an ordinary fellowship program. Bonds are intentionally created, feedback is valuable and constructive, and the time was well spent from beginning to end. As I move into a new leadership role at my school I believe that without this program I would have continued to box myself in. After graduation my first year here, I feel more confident and ready for the road that lies ahead.”

— Akiya Minniefield, Former Teacher and now Assistant Principal, Rocky Mountain Prep Montebello

While we are celebrating that within three years, 80% of our alumni have now pursued and received school leadership roles, we believe school leadership is more than a title. You’ll find our alumni as teacher-leaders on campus, Deans, Assistant Principals, and Principals, as well as system administrators. No matter the title, we equip our program participants to lead in every role throughout their career journey while planting the seeds of school leadership for the future. In this way, we are proactively building the bench of transformational leaders for all schools.


Effectively Preparing Principals for Today’s Leadership Challenges Through an Adaptable Problem-Based Model.

97 %

of Marshall Fellows would recommend the program to those interested in leading schools.

Our problem-based model incorporates a broad base of universal challenges that leaders encounter in their everyday work.

This includes inspiring and coaching teachers, guiding them through instructional challenges, and working effectively with parents.

Our model also allows us to incorporate the challenges that schools are facing right now. And those challenges — in the current political and social climate — are historic and daunting:

  • “How do I navigate heated political divides between students and families in my school?”
  • “How do I balance the health and sustainability of my teachers with the urgency of confronting the learning loss affecting my students?
  • “How do I build a restorative school culture system that works and is manageable to maintain?

Our approach provides participants with the personal and practical tools and theoretical foundation to confront the challenges that school leaders face today. Our participants agree: 97% of Marshall leaders would recommend the program to others interested in leading schools.

For example, Melissa Petty was a Principal when she joined one of our cohort programs in Washington. She credits the Marshall Leadership Institute for helping her transform her school’s culture.

“My work with the Marshall Leadership Institute has enhanced my leadership and the experiences of students within my school. During one of our cohort sessions, we focused on the work of building a restorative school culture. Though this is something my school always aspired towards, we had trouble implementing it at scale: it was time-consuming, emotionally draining, and often ineffective. After completing some powerful readings, discussing with my cohort, and receiving coaching from the Marshall Leadership Institute facilitators, I had a transformative moment: I realized that my school’s faculty’s hearts were in the right place, but our systems weren’t.

I went back to my school refreshed, lighter, and clear on what we needed to do. We re-invested in proactive community building rather than just focusing on recovering after harm was done. We built appropriate boundaries, trained our faculty on how to uphold them, and built a team that continuously focuses on improving our culture systems. Without a doubt, we made significant, systemic improvement in our culture and are moving towards a more joyful school community.”

— Melissa Petty, Principal at Lumen High School, Washington


Going Beyond Pedagogy to Customize Programming for Partners

We work with district partners to understand their community context, leadership training landscape, school culture, and individual leader needs to design a cohesive leadership program that adapts our model to their community.

For example, as Impact Public Schools in Washington expanded, they wanted to intentionally support the development of teacher-leaders who were taking on the important role of leading grade-level teams. The Marshall Leadership Institute worked with senior leaders at the network to design and facilitate a series of launch experiences to prepare the emerging leaders for their new roles. Through these experiences, Impact’s emerging leaders encountered tools that would support their team leadership and management. But just as importantly, the sessions helped participants lead with authenticity.

“We were grateful to have the [Marshall Leadership Institute] program enhance the development of some of our aspiring leaders. Those who went through the program brought a new lens to their work with other adults, were increasingly reflective and driven to make a change, and developed confidence in themselves as educational leaders. We hired all three – into formal leadership roles!”

— Alex Horowitz, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer, Impact Public Schools


Building Resilience Through Community, Connection, and Support Among Fellows

Community and connection are key to principal resilience and retention.

School leadership is demanding and isolating, especially today. But even before the pandemic and current political and social upheaval, schools in the United States faced retention challenges among school leaders. Annual principal turnover is 18% nationwide and 21% for high-poverty schools. Nearly half of new principals leave their schools after three years. The turnover of effective principals can result in greater teacher turnover and poorer student outcomes.

We intentionally foster community through discussion, dialogue, and group reflection, and build trust through routines like cohort check-ins and check-outs. Through our consultancy model, fellows bring the challenges they are facing at their school sites, and collaborate with the group to get what they need in a rigorous, structured way. The Marshall Leadership Institute builds resilience, problem solving, adaptive leadership, and a community of support that leads to higher retention for these most important members of our school communities.

“There were countless Saturdays where I was feeling overwhelmed and/or disappointed in something happening at work. [Marshall Leadership Institute] provided a space for me to step-back, decompress, reconnect with an amazing group of educators, and be reinspired by what we can accomplish together. I found the experience rejuvenating throughout this tough year.”

— Anna Halat, Assistant Principal, East Bay Innovation Academy


Growing Rapidly to Meet Demand for Powerful Leaders

Over a few short years, the Marshall Leadership Institute has taken Summit’s successful professional development and training program and expanded it to serve partner schools nationwide.

Altogether, since 2019, we have supported the leadership journey of 212 leaders at 37 schools across five states.

And we are not done yet. By building the capacity of our partners to develop their own leadership pipelines — like we’re doing with WA Charters and at DSST — we’ll accelerate the reach and impact of our model, delivering the transformational leadership that our nation’s schools need. Ultimately, we will build the capacity of these partners to operate this program independently so it can sustain its leadership pipelines for the long term.

And, feedback and demand from our participants and partners has prompted us to expand our offerings. While our cohort-based experiences are powerful, individualized coaching can further the growth of our leaders in relation to their own contexts, which leads to real and immediate impact on young people. That’s why the Marshall Leadership Institute is leveraging its experience in our Personalized Coaching Program, which empowers school leaders to be effective change agents and drive meaningful and immediate improvement in their schools.

Case Study: Increasing Interest in School Leadership at DSST

Building a Pathway to Leadership

DSST Public Schools — the largest public charter management organization in Colorado — is the leading STEM open-enrollment school network in the nation. Historically, DSST had not allocated resources to a comprehensive and aligned internal leadership pipeline. In 2022–23, supported by funding from the Charter School Growth Fund, Marshall Leadership Institute was hired to provide expertise in building pipelines and to help DSST Leadership quickly design and launch a thriving leadership pipeline.

First, the Marshall Leadership Institute conducted a needs assessment, including stakeholder interviews and data analysis. Due to the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, building the interest of DSST teachers in school leadership was the area of highest need in DSST’s pipeline. Next, the Marshall Leadership Institute supported the DSST team’s strategic planning to identify a key group of teachers to work with and to set goals for their new pipeline leadership programming.

Ultimately, the Marshall Leadership Institute designed DSST’s first pipeline building learning experience. We combined our signature problem-based learning approach with DSST’s goals, rubrics, and culture to create a customized curriculum. The curriculum included workshops and problem-based learning sessions on how to set up new teaching teams for success, communicate high expectations, build trust, lean into conflict, and have courageous conversations around performance. Additionally, the curriculum included personal narrative storytelling so participants could share their values and motivations for being school leaders.

In collaboration with DSST’s newly founded Leadership Development Team, the Marshall Leadership Institute began facilitator training by equipping DSST facilitators to lead the program in perpetuity. In alignment with gradual release principles, we modeled for the DSST team how to recruit and interview program participants, build the first cohort, and then facilitate implementation of the curriculum.

The result? All participants built skills in leading teams of teachers through influence, and 88% of participants expressed interest in pursuing school leadership positions. The Marshall Leadership Institute is now working with DSST to continue the gradual release process to ensure DSST staff can lead the program sustainably into the future.

“It is so hard when teaching to get out of the day-to-day routine within my own school. The cohort experience provided me an opportunity to learn, grow, and reflect with other like-minded people looking to take the next step in their careers. I have learned more about myself in these past few months than I ever have in my professional career. I have also learned the leadership skills that I never would have acquired if I did not join.”

— Melissa Dubay, recently promoted to Dean, DSST

Explore our impact.

  • MS_Icon_Orange

    Marshall Street Initiatives

    Learn how we’re putting our values into action at Marshall Street Initiatives.
    Learn More
  • MS_Icon_Orange

    Marshall Teacher Residency

    Learn how the Marshall Teacher Residency is producing high-quality teachers who represent the communities they serve.

    Learn More
  • MS_Icon_Orange

    Networked Improvement Community

    Learn how the NIC is systematically addressing the way we serve our most vulnerable students.

    Learn More