by Amanda Burke, Ed.D., Senior Director of Education and Workforce, Center for the Future of Arizona

Good leadership is felt by people throughout an entire organization. With an effective leader in place, a culture of success can be formed that enables everyone to understand the vision and goals of the organization, what improvements should be made and how results can be achieved.

This is why the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) launched its Beat The Odds School Leadership Academy. The BTO Academy is designed to equip current and aspiring principals with the skills necessary to be more effective CEOs of their organizations to empower them to create better outcomes for students.

There is a critical link between a strong principal and student success. In fact, principals account for nearly 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement.

CFA leads the BTO Academy and administers the program to enrolled participants. Executive training is delivered by a cadre of 20 proven school leaders from Arizona, who are nationally certified to deliver training.

The BTO Academy aligns with Governor Doug Ducey’s “Great Schools, Great Leaders” initiative to close the achievement gap and improve the quality of education in Arizona.

In June, $250,000 was approved by the Arizona Legislature to expand principal training in the state, which Gov. Ducey’s 2018 executive budget called for to match equivalent funds from the philanthropic community in order to expand school leadership and training opportunities through the BTO Academy, which launched in April.

CFA will offer a minimum of 50 new slots to train Arizona’s principals. These slots will be focused toward Arizona’s low-socioeconomic communities, which is where Arizona has the best opportunity to close the academic achievement gap.

The state of the education system in Arizona has been in the spotlight for some time. Arizona has ranked low in many national rankings for education and was recently ranked 43 in the nation for education by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best States Rankings.”

The same report specifically ranked Arizona’s Pre-K-12 education at No. 47 nationally.

Gov. Ducey stated at the recent BTO Academy launch event, “Collaboration between the public and private sectors is critical to finding solutions for improving the quality of Arizona’s education system. Investing in the effectiveness of school leaders will have a long-lasting impact on our school system, which will create better experiences for teachers and prepare student learners to reach their fullest potential.”

Our BTO Academy provides a platform for making systematic changes to education in Arizona, and for creating a culture in schools that will allow our teachers and students to be successful.

For nearly a decade CFA has mentored and trained K-12 principals. The BTO Academy is the continuation of that commitment and is designed to show principals how to transform their schools by charting a strategic course of action tied to improving learning outcomes for all students. As we move forward with the next phase of our program, public/private support enables us to provide this resource of trainers to Arizona school districts and their emerging school leaders.

The BTO Academy is a collaboration that brings together CFA’s successful Arizona-based principal mentorship model and the National Institute for School Leadership’s Executive Development Program (EDP)—the most rigorous and widely-used executive development program for school leaders in the country.

School leaders enrolled in the program will go through 12 two-day units delivered across a year-and-a- half. Curriculum will cover strategic leadership coursework, standards-based educational systems and instructional practices in English, math and science.

How the BTO Academy impacts Arizona schools

  • Equips leaders to lead for excellence and equity–for all learners, in every community.
  • Draws on the best practices of Arizona’s high-performing schools to show principals models of success that will have a positive impact in their schools.
  • Helps to close student achievement gaps and creates a culture of high expectations in schools.
  • Aids in building a pipeline for leadership talent within schools and school districts, while enhancing teacher recruitment, retention and quality.

What enrolled participants can expect
Program Curriculum:

  • Nationally-researched, evidence-based and locally-delivered in a cohort model.
  • Improves the practice of leadership and transforms instruction and student achievement in schools.
  • Coursework spans strategic leadership, standards-based educational systems and instructional practices in math, English, history and science.
  • Consists of 12 two-day units, delivered in 12 to 15 months.
  • Bridged with online coursework, reading and job-embedded application of key concepts.

Enrollment for the BTO Academy is now open. School leaders can find out more by contacting the Center for the Future of Arizona. Learn more about CFA’s program at

Amanda Burke, Ed.D., is Senior Director of Education and Workforce with the Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonpartisan, nonprofit “do tank” that combines research with collaborative partnerships and initiatives that drive the state’s economic prosperity, quality of life and civic health, and create a better future for all Arizonans.