First cohort evaluation: 21st Century California School Leadership

The 21st Century California School Leadership Academy (21CSLA) was established by Senate Bill 75 in 2019 as part of the Statewide System of Support (SSOS). The purpose of 21CSLA is to provide high-quality, equity-centered professional learning for school and district leaders in California. The initiative comprises a 21CSLA State Center run by the University of California, Berkeley School of Education and seven Regional Academies (RAs). The first cohort of 21CSLA ran from 2020 to 2023. The academies took place in the following regions: Alameda, Kern, Placer/Sacramento, Riverside/San Diego, Shasta, Sonoma and Tulare.

RTI International conducted an evaluation of the program to explore and identify 21CSLA’s extent of scale and replication of professional learning, how the program centers equity for the purpose of increasing equitable student outcomes, the impact of 21CSLA on student learning, and how 21CSLA connects with the SSOS.

Cohort 1 was offered 333 trainings, serving 8,300 California leaders at teacher, site and district levels, through communities of practice (CoPs), localized professional learning (LPL) and coaching RA offerings, collective meetings and retreats, summits, webinars and more.

Key findings for Cohort 1:
  1. RAs offered CoPs, LPL and coaching, with eight common features that reflected research related to professional learning, leadership development in education and system. Researchers found these offerings provided sufficient time and formats for participant engagement, useful leadership content, individualized coaching and feedback, continuous improvement approaches, collaboration, opportunities for practice, and offerings tailored to participant needs. Researchers found “promise for scale and replication.”
  1. The evaluation confirmed that equity was a central feature in the structure and content of all RA offerings. Equity in the structure of offerings included thoughtful consideration of who was hired to coach or facilitate the offerings, providing targeted affinity groups and focusing on specific student populations. “Equity content included helping leaders understand and reflect on their own biases and beliefs, continuous improvement approaches in offerings centered on an equity problem of practice, and both leadership and instructional content was equity focused,” according to the evaluation.
  1. RA offerings had an impact on leaders and local educational agencies they served:
  • RA offerings influenced participants’ knowledge and skills about evidence-based practices, continuous improvement and equity in areas including mindset changes about colleagues and students, leaders’ views of themselves, and perspectives on continuous improvement.
  • RA offerings influenced participant practices of continuous improvement and equity-focused leadership in their districts and schools including in discussing race and identity, creating a shared purpose or vision, listening and reflecting, changing scheduling practices, using evidence-       based instructional practices, leading teams and leading other leaders.
  • RA offerings influenced positive changes for schools, teachers and students with participants implementing or improving their practices in equity-focused leadership that influenced positive local changes. Participants noticed and anticipated further changes in their school, teachers and students. Leaders cited school climate improvements, increased teacher collaboration, a reduction in exclusionary discipline, and increases in student engagement and access to evidence-based instruction.
  1. RAs and the 21st CSLA Center connected with partners internal and external to the SSOS.
  • RAs had several collaborations with county offices of education to help tailor offerings to local needs, co-facilitate offerings and co-develop topic-specific leadership supports, with input from experts at universities, nonprofits and other entities to enhance content in offerings, hire coaches and co-develop offerings.
  • In the first year of the cohort, the center launched “Inquiry Now,” a collaboration with the California Subject Matter Project, the Los Angeles COE and the Alameda RA to develop and implement a professional learning series on integrating instructional content with inquiry. In Year 2, saw the creation of the Universal Transitional Kindergarten Leadership Initiative led by the center in partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles School of Education & Information Studies, Center X; California Subject Matter Project, and seven RAs, and a train the trainer and leadership certificate started in Year 3.
  1. The center modeled and supported RA offerings and how to centralize equity in offerings through a guidance document and provided support to RAs on how to structure and implement offerings, with opportunities for RAs to work together, get feedback and make improvements.

Read the full report, which provides further insights into the program, including quotes from participants..