Superintendent Academy

Scale improvements in instruction and learning across entire regions or states with a rigorous, research-based, cohort-delivered executive development program for district superintendents.

Explore the Superintendent Academy

NISL’s Superintendent Academy is a rigorous, research-based, cohort-delivered executive development program for district superintendents. The academy provides district leaders with the knowledge, skills and tools to design and lead district-wide, coherent, aligned systems of instruction and learning, based on examples of the best performers in the United States and worldwide.


The Superintendent Academy is delivered as an 18-month program organized across two academic years delivered to cohorts of 25 or more participants. It focuses on facilitated sessions led by successful former superintendents and education experts, with support from an international team of researchers and practitioners. The delivery of the Academy leverages decades of research on adult learning and emphasizes real-world application. Each participant develops and implements an Action Learning Project that provides an opportunity to apply the concepts of system redesign to create a high-performance district that gets dramatically improved results for students and teachers. The academy is structured as follows:

1 Kick-off 3 day colloquium: A 3-day residential forum delivered by NCEE/NISL national faculty designed to introduce the big ideas and analytical data that will frame the context throughout the academy and to create a learning com­munity among members of the cohort.

2 Core Sessions: Three 2-day sessions diving into system design, including the incentives, structures and supports that drive the results your district is currently getting and how those can be re-engineered to create a very different design with very different results.

Core Lens 1: Students who graduate college- and career-ready
Core Lens 2: Highly-qualified teachers and teaching
Core Lens 3: High-performance organization and management

3 Mid-program 2-Day colloquium: An opportunity for participants to present their Action Learning Project (ALP) concepts informed by the learning and case studies from the core sessions for expert, peer and state review. Plenary sessions with leading NCEE/NISL experts will also provide participants with provocative new research and ideas.

4 Network Sessions: Three 2-day sessions focused on the superintendents’ ALPs where participants conduct on-site visits to their colleagues’ districts to delve deeper into the challenges of implementation of system reform in American school districts. Superintendents and the work they are doing in their districts will drive these sessions and provide opportunities for participants to reflect on and hone their leadership skills to effect and sustain change at scale. The NISL portal and digital materials will also allow participants to join practitioner communities to share ideas with participants in other states.

5 Culminating 3-day colloquium: Superintendents, possibly with their district teams, present progress on their ALPs to each other, to state education leaders and, possibly, for public dissemination.

Hear What Participants are Saying

Pennsylvania has provided the Superintendent Academy to over 100 district superintendents. Hear from Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and participating superintendents about the impact the program is having.