Start-up Schools Fellowship

Interested in joining our next cohort for the Start-up Schools Fellowship? Apply here by March 31, 2014!

The Problem

Across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the vast majority of Latino and African-American students are being left behind, unready for college and unable to compete in the new economy. This is not a problem that is confined to low-income, under-resourced areas—it is a systemic problem that affects urban and suburban students alike.

Scaling Innovation in the Region

The problem with public education in the region is not that we don’t have schools that work—as Innovate Public Schools’ recent region-wide report shows, there is a small and growing group of exceptionally successful schools here.

The solution is as clear as it is challenging: take the successful schools and replicate them throughout the region. Right now, conditions are ripe to take these models and grow them to scale: charter schools and districts are poised to launch ambitious expansion and replication plans, elected officials and grassroots leaders are demanding better schools for their communities, and all throughout the region can be found nationally-recognized schools—proof points that excellence is achievable right here.

While these model schools use a wide array of curricula and strategies to propel their students to success, many have one thing in common: they are new schools led by visionary, effective leaders who overcome the challenges of startup and have the passion and skill necessary to build a great new school from scratch.  Unfortunately, these high-impact leaders are in short supply: districts and charters compete for the small pool of proven principals, while struggling in isolation to invest sufficient resources in the difficult, expensive process of preparing rising leaders to launch new schools. The current system is unable to solve the basic human capital problem: it cannot identify, recruit and train enough talented educators quickly enough to bring its successful models to scale.


Building a Pipeline of Leaders to Launch New Schools

In order to grow more high-performing schools, Innovate Public Schools has launched the Start-Up Schools Fellowship. This program combines best practices from high-impact organizations nationwide and the exceptional models already thriving in the region. In order to have significant impact, Innovate’s work has several key elements:

  • Place-Based Focus, growing an ecosystem of regional education leaders and organizations who will build momentum toward meeting the particular challenges and problems of public education in the region.
  • District/Charter Partnership, building a network that encompasses many dozens of district-run schools and charter schools, so the best ideas and practices spread widely and rapidly.
  • Focus on New Schools, helping charter networks expand, while introducing innovative startup practices to school districts that often have little experience launching new schools.


The Start-Up Schools Fellowship

Key elements of the Fellowship include:

  • Training in Leadership Development and Organizational Design: The foundation of the Fellowship is approximately five days of training focused on leadership, organizational design, and congruence.  During these sessions, Fellows will participate in a 360-degree evaluation.  This experience allows each Fellow to compare how their self-perceptions about their leadership abilities may or may not differ from the perceptions their professional peers hold about their leadership.  Through this process Fellows construct a Leadership Development Plan that will become the Foundation of 1:1 leadership coaching provided by Innovate’s Director of Schools.
  • Training in Effective School Design: Fellows will also participate in four working sessions to create and revise their school design plans.  During these sessions, Fellows will learn principles of effective school design and will apply these principles to their unique design plans.  Additionally, Fellows will have the opportunity to vet elements of their school design plans with the members of the Fellowship cohort. Additional feedback and school design support will be provided to Fellows during their coaching sessions with the Innovate Director of Schools and other experts in the field.
  • Excellent School Visits: At least four times throughout the year, the cohort of Start-Up Schools Fellows will participate in site visits to excellent schools across San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, taking advantage of the fact that this region is home to some of the best public schools in the state serving low-income children.  Each school visit will be structured to complement topics explored in recent Fellowship meetings and seminars.  During site visits, Fellows will have an opportunity learn from and dialogue with principals and other school leaders who have developed model programs that are delivering impressive results.  During structured debriefing conversations following each site visit, Fellows will solidify their understanding of what structures and programs make each school excellent.  Effective practices Fellows observe will then be integrated into the design plans that they create.
  • Seminars on High-Impact Topics for Start-Up School Leaders: In addition, there will also be seminars, led by experts in the field, including:

– Creating schools with deep parent engagement and leadership and building strategic community support for new schools.
– Developing a school culture rooted in the principles of growth-mindset and implementing programs that build grit, persistence, and positive character to foster  student success.
– Examining how issues of identity and equity influence leadership style and the development of effective school culture.
– Concrete planning for the first days and weeks with students and teachers.

  • Coaching: Innovate’s Director Of Schools, who has extensive experience launching great schools and mentoring school leaders, will provide regular 1-1 coaching and support for each Fellow, focused on individual leadership development plans that each Fellow develops during the program.   During the initial months of the Fellowship, coaching will focus on ensuring that each leader has a clear understanding of their leadership strengths and areas for improvement.  They will explore how they can improve their leadership and will learn how to create a strong vision for their school that is aligned with their core beliefs as educators.  Later in the Fellowship year, coaching will focus primarily on the continued improvement of each Fellow’s school design plans.
  • Network of colleagues, supporters, and learners: The Start-Up Schools Fellowship is designed to enable Fellows to build a network of colleagues who can learn from and support each other over the long-term and to help people feel part of a larger, inspiring movement.  Fellows will be afforded many opportunities to engage in rigorous dialogue about effective models of school design and student support.  They will also be able to visit one another’s schools and engage in dialogue beyond the formal Fellowship sessions.  Innovate’s Director of Schools will foster collaboration between Fellows by ensuring that a steady stream of communication occurs between Fellows and to ensure that Fellows with similar visions for their schools are able to share ideas and practices.

Apply for the 2014-15 Fellowship by March 31,2014.

Projected Fellowship Timeline and Program Costs for 2014-2015

January 27, 2014: Fellowship applications available

March 31, 2014: Applications due

April 1-April 11: Applications Reviewed; finalists invited for individual interview and selection day

April 17:  Fellowship Selection Day (tentative)

April 21: Fellowship Acceptances Sent Out

May 1: Fellowship Acceptances Due

Early June: 360 Evaluations completed by Fellows

Early July: 3 days of Leadership Development training

July – June (ongoing): One-on-one Leadership Coaching

August: 2 days of Leadership Development training – School Visit 1

September: 2 Days of School Planning and Seminars

October: 2 Days of School Planning and Seminars

November: 2 Days of School Planning and Seminars – School Visit 2

December: 1 Day of School Planning and Seminars

January: 1 Day of School Planning and Seminars – School Visit 3

February: 1 Day of School Planning and Seminars

March: Final School Design Plan and Implementation Plan Due, Panel Review of Design Plans

May: Fellowship Cohort Meeting

June: Fellowship Cohort Meeting

Program Costs

Participating charter organizations and districts pay the following:

  • $10,000 per Fellow/$15,000 for a team of two launching a new school (e.g. a Principal and AP).
  • Access to existing schools, school leaders, and sharing of best practices, including school visits, shadowing by Fellows, and dissemination of materials.
  • Sharing of facilities when appropriate to host meetings.

Commitment from District Partners

The power of the Fellowship comes from the diversity of the Fellows themselves.  Each year, the Fellowship will include individuals from charter schools and school districts who work collaboratively to share best practices around school design and program implementation, leading to schools of excellence for students in our region.   Ultimately, the governance of the school and the autonomies and support that are provided to the school leader dramatically impacts the quality of new schools.  To ensure that new schools are successful in making significant academic gains with students, district partners must be willing to commit to:

  • Creating a new school within their district or dramatically redesigning a current school to create a school of excellence.
  • School leader autonomy over hiring and/or replacing staff that are not making significant gains with students (to the extent possible within existing collective bargaining agreements).
  • School leader autonomy regarding choice of curriculum, length of school day and year, and school scheduling  (to the extent possible within existing collective bargaining agreements).
  • School leader autonomy over curriculum and instruction, as well as practices for coaching and evaluating school staff (to the extent possible within existing collective bargaining agreements).
  • Encouraging a key district leader to participate in the Fellowship in order to build organizational capacity regarding school design, effective principles of leadership development, and to better understand the impact of new school launch strategies as an effective path to reform.

Impact of the Start-Up Schools Fellowship

Survey results indicate that 100% of Fellows feel satisfied or highly satisfied with the overall quality of the program.  Fellows have consistently reported feeling inspired and supported to design high quality schools from the ground up and that they feel confident the program is providing the support that they need to accomplish the substantial task of building a great school.   Fellows have also reported that the individualized coaching provided during the Fellowship year, as well as excellent schools visits, have supported them in developing a clear vision for what excellence will look like at their future schools.

Here’s what some of the Fellows and partners are saying about the program:

“Innovate Public Schools’ Fellowship has helped me to comprehend in much more detail how to successfully open a school. Through interactive, critical thinking sessions I know that I will be able to design the best school possible for all the children of San Jose.”     

Maricela Guerrero, Principal, Rocketship Education


“The Fellowship has been a transformational experience for our Founding Principals—it gave us language to describe ourselves as leaders, and to give meaning to and measure the work we need to do to launch effective schools.  One of the greatest outcomes of the Fellowship has been the bond created with other leaders passionate about closing the achievement gap in San Jose.  Thanks to the Fellowship, we now have a network of leaders to share ideas and best practices with.”  

 – Shawn Gerth, Director of Schools, ACE Charter Schools


“Innovate’s Fellowship Program capsulizes the best practices for leading new charter schools and opens the doors for local school district leaders to participate in as well. The goal is to have all students, whether they are in charters or district schools, benefit from high performing school leadership training.”

– Dr. John Porter, Superintendent, Franklin-McKinley School District


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