Office of Education


Beat the Odds School Leadership Academy

Beat the Odds School Leadership AcademyBeat the Odds School Leadership AcademyBeat the Odds School Leadership Academy

Great Schools, Great Leaders!

"There is no question that great schools are led by great leaders. This initiative recognizes the critical link between a strong principal, a strong teacher, and student achievement. It is my hope that, through our partnership with the Center for the Future of Arizona, Helios Education Foundation, and the Burton Family Foundation, we can unlock the potential in all public schools in Arizona, especially in those communities where students will most benefit from strong leadership."

Governor Doug Ducey, September 2016

Research has shown that that there can be no great schools without great school leaders. With the committment to making a difference for low income, low-achieving Latino students in Arizona, the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) set out to answer the question -- What does it take to get great results in schools with mostly low income, mostly Latino students? The results of their 2006 study led to the creation of the Beat the Odds (BTO) principal program in 2007 which to date has provided training and mentoring to more than 200 school leaders.

With the strong support from Governor Ducey and investments from Helios Education Foundation and the Burton Family Foundation, CFA is now expanding the success of the BTO program through a collaboration with the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL). Together the two programs will create the Beat the Odds School Leadership Academy. By integrating BTO’s principal mentorship model with NISL’s nationally recognized research based principal training program, the Leadeship Academy is set to become a strong program that can serve aspiring and current school leaders across the state

Learn more at

via AZCentral/ November 20, 2017

Three years ago, Eric Atuahene struggled through his first-year as principal at a mostly Latino elementary school in Avondale.

He faced declining test scores, rising disciplinary problems and low teacher morale. At the end of his first year, nearly half the school’s 57 teachers left.  

Much has improved at Quentin Elementary School since then. Staff morale is up, leading more teachers to stay at Quentin. Students have shown year-over-year growth on standardized test scores, and the number of students being referred to the office for disciplinary issues has declined, according to school district officials. (Read More...)

June 2017

In FY 2017, with a significant investment from the Governor’s Office of Education, Helios Education Foundation and the Burton Family Foundation, CFA trained 15 outstanding Arizona school leaders to become NISL certified facilitators. These 15 facilitators provide capacity for the BTO School Leadership Academy to cost-effectively deliver extensive and rigorous training proven to impact student achievement to school leaders across the state.

Grant Project Outcomes

      • Through a competitive application process conducted in summer 2016, CFA successfully identified 15 high-quality school leaders to become NISL certified trainers.
      • Following a year-long process of rigorous and intensive training, the 15 BTO NISL trainer candidates successfully completed the NISL Executive Development Program.
      • CFA developed and launched a new website featuring the BTO School Leadership Academy in partnership with NISL.
      • CFA collaborated with NISL in August 2016 to respond to the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE) School Improvement Supporting Partner and Professional Development RFP.
      • CFA was selected to present the BTO School Leadership Academy in partnership with NISL at the December 2016 ASBA ASA Annual Conference.
      • The BTO School Leadership Academy welcomed its first cohort of school leaders with start of the Phoenix Union School District and partner LEA training that began in March 2017.
      • CFA developed and sent letters to the Arizona legislature regarding the critical importance of school leadership development to improving the quality of education in Arizona
      • Under the leadership of Dr. Amanda Burke, CFA met with LEAs across the state regarding the opportunity to participate in the BTO School Leadership Academy.
      • CFA developed and applied for funding under USDOE’s new Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant competition.
      • In collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Education, Burton Family Foundation, and Helios Education Foundation, CFA formally announced the BTO School Leadership Academy on April 26 in a significant luncheon event.
      • CFA forged new strategic partnerships through the BTO academy that have the potential for transformational change.
      • Further strengthened CFA’s relationship with NISL, yielding new opportunities for collaboration in Arizona in support of school transformation.



May 2017

As part of Governor Ducey's FY2018 budget, a one-time increase of $250,000 from the General Fund in FY 2018 was allocated for School Leadership Training, with funding allocated by the Office of the Governor through a public-private partnership to train school leaders in effective management strategies and expand the cadre of training coaches and facilitators. The Office of the Governor will submit a report that summarizes the results of school leadership training, including the number of school leaders trained and the amount of matching monies received from nonstate sources to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. A copy of this report will also be provided to the Secretary of State. 

April 26, 2017

The Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) today announced the launch of its Beat The Odds School Leadership Academy, a new resource available to traditional public school districts and charter school networks across the state. CFA leads the Beat The Odds School Leadership 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 to current and aspiring principals. There is a critical link between a strong principal and student success. In fact, principals account for nearly 25% of a school’s total impact on student achievement. 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.

Identified through a competitive application process, CFA established an outstanding cadre of Arizona NISL certified facilitators. These select individuals will become nationally certified NISL facilitators, leading training and providing mentoring as leaders who understand education in Arizona and are recognized in the field. The Arizona NISL facilitators are a diverse group with significant experience and expertise. Backgrounds include Rodel Exemplary Principals, National Blue Ribbon, charter and traditional public school leaders, A for Arizona leaders, Beat the Odds Mentors, and Teach for America alumni.

 CFA will begin delivering NISL training through the BTO School Leadership Academy to cohorts of aspiring and current school leaders in fall of 2017.


How BTO academy impacts Arizona schools

      • Equips leaders to lead for excellence and equity–for all learners, in every community.
      • Draws on the best practice 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

The Beat The Odds School Leadership Academy is a sustainable program developed and led by the Center for the Future of Arizona.

Program Curriculum:

      • Nationally researched, evidence-based and locally delivered in a cohort model.
      • Improves the practice of leadership, 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.

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