NSBA’s Center for Public Education Launches Leading the Change

New research-based tools aim to help school leaders turn around low-performing schools
March 18, 2015

Alexandria, Va. (March 18, 2015) – The National School Boards Association (NSBA), the leading advocate for public education, today introduced its new research-based initiative, Leading the Change, developed by its Center for Public Education (CPE). Leading the Change provides data-driven decision-making tools to school boards to help transform chronically low-performing schools into high-quality institutions.

Leading the Change was designed specifically for school board members to help guide their efforts to support change systemically. The tools represent the best thinking of school board leaders from urban, suburban, and rural districts across every region in the country. Each tool in the Leading the Change toolkit is supported by research on what works to turn schools around.

“Although student achievement is up in most places, not all schools are high-performing,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Our aim with Leading the Change is to provide the tools needed to help struggling schools.”

“It is very difficult to turn around schools with a history of chronic low performance. School board members can often feel frustrated by efforts to lift such schools from the bottom. Leading the Change gives school boards the tools to help them transform low-performing schools to high-performing institutions of learning, and lead children to excellence,” says NSBA president Anne M. Byrne.

The tools that comprise Leading the Change are based on a data-driven decision making process called Data First that was developed by CPE in partnership with the California School Boards Association, the Illinois Association of School Boards, and the Michigan Association of School Boards. To create the Leading the Change toolkit, CPE customized the Data First process to address school turnaround specifically. A working group of nine school board leaders from across the country collaborated with CPE to develop the tools.

How the tools work. A data-driven decision making process walks users through a series of guiding questions that inform each step. The process begins with an examination of baseline data to set measurable goals; moves to aligning resources and defining research-based, turnaround strategies that will support those goals; and finally, assists with monitoring results to make sure the turnaround plan is working.

According to Patte Barth, Director, Center for Public Education (CPE), “Transforming chronically low-performing schools is perhaps the biggest challenge school leaders face. Yet districts across the country are showing it can be met and are turning low-performing schools into places where all of its students learn to high levels.  One of the lessons these examples teach us is that data, used effectively, is the key that unlocks what needs to be done and points to how to do it.”

NSBA and CPE are making the toolkit publicly available to guide school boards through the often complex process of transforming low-performing schools into high-performing institutions.

For more information about Leading the Change, visit

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The Center for Public Education is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. CPE provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools. CPE is an initiative of the National School Boards Association.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at:

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