Leading to Learn

About Leading to Learn Grant

The Leading to Learn Program is a federally-funded 5-year grant that addresses two key areas of School Leadership -- Instructional Climate and Instructional Actions.  Two pathways to success are being used -- Professional Learning and Executive Coaching for current principals and assistant principals, and recruitment of Aspiring Principal candidates.  The program is based on the hypothesis that student learning will improve if our school leaders understand what real learning looks like and work daily to provide teachers the feedback, training, and other resources needed to become more effective in creating learning opportunities for students. 

Key strategies include School Culture Assessments to gauge current school climate and work toward improvements; Executive Coaching to support current leaders; the use of Instructional Rounds, Data Retreats, and Data Teams to shift the school's focus; mentoring, shadowing, and blended learning experiences for Aspiring Principal candidates; and more. 

The Leading to Learn Program is working with four school districts in the GRREC region:  Allen County, Barren County, Grayson County, and Todd County.

School Culture Assessment

We know that every school has a culture and that every culture can certainly be improved.  A school’s culture can be associated with achievement and the overall well-being of a school. Often, the school’s principal has a strong correlation in creating the school’s culture. The School Culture Assessment process involves 3-5 days of observation and interview process which trained GRREC staff will help uncover the collect data about a school’s learning environment.  This data will be analyzed to determine patterns in both thinking and behavior.  This particular process will uncover how staff members feel about each other, the day-to-day operations of the school, the students and the overall impact on learning.  All stakeholders; teachers, leaders, bus drivers, students, custodians, cafeteria staff, as well as parents are included in observations and small group interviews. Results will be analyzed to create a School Culture Profile that will be shared back with the staff at a later date. The School Culture Profile includes specific, immediate, and long-term areas and actions for school improvement.  The principal is advised to work through his/her leadership team to plan specific steps to address identified issues and continue to nurture the positive  aspects of the culture.


The School Culture Profile will serve as a road map for improvement for principals to monitor efforts over the next days, weeks and months and even years.  These explicit and deliberate steps will help principals work professionally and collegially with their staff to help their school culture be more conducive to learning and positive for all. 

Participating Schools
Barren County​
  • Austin Tracy Elementary
  • Eastern Elementary
  • Barren County Middle
  • Barren County High
  • Red Cross Elementary​
​Todd County
  • South Todd Elementary
  • Todd County Middle
  • North Todd Elementary
  • Todd County Central High
Allen County​
  • Allen County High
  • Allen County Intermediate
  • Bazzell Middle School
  • Allen County Primary
​Grayson County
  • Clarkson Elementary
  • Grayson County High
  • Lawler Elementary
  • Wilkey Elementary​

Executive Coaching

GRREC’s Executive Coaches are trained under Jim Knight’s Instructional Coaching Model to work alongside school principals and assistant principals as he or she leads the work of teaching and learning. Though executive coaching at the school level is a relatively new concept in the literature, it has been a proven and recognized model for businesses and industry for decades.  Coaching provides school leaders discrete, pragmatic, and knowledgeable feedback on specific tasks such as communication with teachers, help understand and recognize good classroom instruction, guidance in how to give effective feedback, and how to empower teachers.  Coaching serves as a leadership improvement tool that translates to improvement in teaching and learning.


Executive Coaching will increase the effectiveness of the leader by facilitating and deepening his/her professional learning as an instructional leader in the school.  Coaching provides the ongoing follow-up that often is lacking in most improvement models.  Executive Coaching will benefit principals by receiving non-evaluative feedback for learning on the job; transfer of peer-to-peer learning; and the assurance that clear goals for improvement have been identified, met, and followed through.

Data Teams 

What are Data Teams…?

Educators at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) developed a 5-Step Process adopted by collaborative instructional grade-level teams to collect and analyze data and make decisions regarding instructional strategies. Data Teams are learning teams that empower educators to analyze student achievement and make intentional instructional changes to increase learning. Grade-level teams create common assessments and use the results as a basis to create S.M.A.R.T. goals and implement research-based interventions to increase learning for all students.


Members of the Leading to Learn Team (Executive Coaches) and representatives from each of the schools in the grant have been trained by consultants from HMH.  These same consultants have conducted trainings in several of the schools that are a part of the L2L Initiative. These schools have shown an increase in student achievement due to effective instructional practices being implemented and teachers knowing where each student is in their learning.   

Data Retreats

The Data Retreat process is an attempt to help individual schools determine areas of academic improvement and develop a collaborative, data-driven planning process.  The three-day summer retreat begins with guided, in-depth prep work in the spring with each principal, assistant principal and/or lead teachers to help develop a thoughtful selection of a 10-member, school-based Leadership Team that is committed towards improvement. The Data Retreat will help each school uncover and recognize the “right” work to be addressed within the next school year by creating an intentional action plan. 


On Day 1, school teams learn to create meaning from their data through a constructivist process, the five-step team protocol includes organization of data into tables, development of a graphic representation of that data, group observations or statements of fact, explanations or hypotheses related to the patterns see in the data, and initial connections to their own classrooms.  By the end of Day 2, teams begin to experience the “light bulb” effect; they begin to see and accept their individual responsibility for student learning and the areas of control upon which they can and should have great effect.  Initially, teams often arrive at Data Retreats are quick to blame parents, poverty, lack of value on education, budget cuts and even kids for the school’s shortcomings or failings. On Day 3, teams leave with a specific priority or concern tied to an actionable improvement plan within their control.


Instructional Rounds

Based on the work of Dr. Richard Elmore and his Harvard-based team, Instructional Rounds is a process to help schools monitor a focused “problem of practice” identified through data analysis.  Instructional Rounds is patterned after the common approach in hospitals and medical rounds which teams of doctors work collaboratively to determine a patients diagnosis and treatment.  In

education, trained peer observers from neighboring schools and districts

are briefed by the host school’s leadership team on a data-based problem

of practice.  This problem of practice represents an area of school

improvement that the host school is currently feeling “stuck-in” and

has reached their limit of their understanding. Participants will be in teams

as they observe the learning as evidenced by the student tasks and

discussions taking place (not the teacher) in the classrooms. After the

collection of evidence, participants will utilize an affinity protocol which

involves description, analysis, prediction, and recommendations.


Instructional Rounds emphasize learning to see, unlearning to judge

and a focus on improving the practice of teaching and learning across

an entire building.

“We learn the work by doing the work” (City, Fiarman & Teitel, 2009).

Aspiring Principals


Aspiring Principals' Certification Program

A Collaborative Effort between 
GRREC's Leading to Learn Program  & WKU 

1  3 Cohorts of 20 participants from the Allen, Barren, Grayson, and Todd County districts

     A.  First cohort began in Fall, 2014 with expected certification completed by May, 2016

     B.  Second cohort began in Fall, 2015 with expected certification completed by May, 2017

     C.  Third cohort begins in Fall, 2016 with expected certification completed by May, 2018

2.  Program Length

     A.  Principal certification/Rank I

     B.  Level 1 Certification - 3 semesters (18 months)

     C.  Level 2 Certification - 12 additional hours taken during "off-program" summers or after completion of Level I

3.  Hybrid Program

     A.  Weekend/Online courses

     B.  PD components (Visible Learning, Data Teams/Retreats, Instructional Rounds, etc.)

     C.  Field-based experiences

     D.  Mentoring support

4.  Reduced Tuition

     A.  Estimated $125/credit hour versus $467/hour

5. Admission Requirements

    A.  Master's degree

    B.  3 years teaching experience

    C.  3.0 graduate GPA

    D.  Completion of admissions screening process


Over a three-year period, it was with great excitement and anticipation that a total of sixty (60) aspiring principals from the Leading to Learn Districts (Allen, Barren, Grayson and Todd) left their Kentucky classrooms and headed to Cambridge, MA and the campus of Harvard University for an Institute in School Leadership.  These aspiring principals were to further develop their skills that will help serve them in their quest to become school administrators. 


Harvard University provided an in-depth focus on the development of positive school cultures, monitoring school finance, meeting the needs of special needs students, and general strategies on teaching and learning were all focus topics in this institute.  The 4-day training was an overwhelming success for the aspiring principals in not only their new learning, but networking with their peers.  Many of those who attended remarked that it was the best professional development that they had ever had!  The participants learned not only about the educational topics at the institute, but made lasting collegial relationships with aspiring principals from across the country and some foreign countries.  It will be a lasting influence and impact on these (60) aspiring principals that will one day be leading schools themselves.