The SGS Levers


2 // Build a supply of great schools in every neighborhood


+ After establishing how to measure school quality, and a process to improve schools, the next step is to build a supply of new options in your district.

Building a consistent supply of quality school operators and program providers will diversify and strengthen your portfolio process. You will have more potential actions to add to your improvement strategies and improve system quality by only creating or expanding schools with a proven track record.

+ A pipeline of diverse school providers helps you secure the supply you need to create access to high-quality seats for all students in a district.

This strategy identifies schools as the unit of change and asks districts to focus resources on empowering and supporting leaders to give them the tools to serve their school community - the strategy:

  1. Creates reset moments that allow a district or school to break the cycle of ineffective practices that define low performing schools;
  2. Identifies a set of leaders who can redefine the bar for quality and attract high-quality teams;
  3. Builds instructional coherence and vertical alignment from the ground up;
  4. Organizes schooling around manageable groups of students to maximize support and impact.

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2.1 Develop policies and practices to create and grow schools and programs


+ Increasing high quality seats requires cultivation of many different school options. Creating and expanding new schools and programs requires an intentional effort to encourage innovation.

Focus on three main actions to expand high-quality seats in your district. Create new schools, expand existing good schools, and reset struggling schools.

For district schools, focus on creating space and structures to encourage development of new and innovative schools and school models, empowering entrepreneurial school leaders to design and manage their schools to best meet the needs of their students, identifying schools that generate good learning outcomes for students and are most in demand by families, and making an intentional effort to grow the number and size of these schools.

For charter schools, districts should specifically focus on forming partnerships with high-quality operators – a successful charter expansion strategy may involve:

Local Authorization: This work includes setting out a clear application process and timeline connected to district needs, outlining authorization criteria, creating performance contracts with charters, and managing an annual process to open new charters on an as-needed basis.

Partnership with the State: For smaller districts, working with the TEA to authorize and manage charters may be a more efficient use of resources in lieu of building out a local process.

+ A successful new schools strategy will lead to a vibrant community of high-quality schools, with talented school leaders and operators prepared to step-in and create new quality options or expand existing ones.

For district schools and school leaders: You will see increased opportunities for autonomy and newly created paths to develop diverse and innovative school models that will improve student outcomes. Successful school leaders will have the ability to expand their reach.

For charter schools and networks: You will see established trust in a strong authorizer focused on quality authorizing and removing unnecessary barriers that impede new school development and growth.

For the central office: You will see that new seats are opened based on academic performance, family demand, and neighborhood needs. The new school strategy provides clear and transparent processes and criteria to open and grow new schools or programs.

+ Begin taking action to expand access to high-quality schools by identifying someone to lead this work, assess your needs, and focus on quick wins such as expanding seats at already high-performing schools to get started.

For district-run schools: Identify a central office staff person or team to lead this work and refer to Sublever 2.2 for more information on what this work looks like in the district.

For charter schools: Determine whether a local or partner supported authorizer strategy is the best fit for your district. Refer to the charter authorizer tools for more information.

2.2 Provide strategic school design supports to create and grow district schools and programs


+ The new schools strategy identifies, supports, and empowers school leaders to create and expand quality school options.

Entrepreneurial school leaders are one of the most valuable assets a district has to create and expand quality school options. The central office’s role in cultivating these leaders involves setting up conditions to identify, train, empower, and support them.

Identifying Leaders: Districts should specifically look for leaders with the competencies required for developing a new school, namely top-performers and self-starters who can attract and organize a team around a vision for a new school.

Training: Leaders tapped to launch a new school or program need time and individual coaching. Training should focus on fostering alignment between instructional vision, school culture, and organizational systems and structures.

Empowerment: Entrepreneurial leaders need room to operate through specific, guaranteed autonomies on key aspects of school design, hiring, and budgets.

Ongoing Support: New leaders need coaching throughout the foundational years to navigate school startup. Coaches in your schools should also look for high-performers on founding teams that can be cultivated to become the next generation of leaders.

+ Creating and replicating high-quality schools is an annual process that builds from the district’s portfolio review cycle.

A new schools strategy is composed of four overall streams of work across an annual cycle. This work is informed by the district’s ongoing portfolio process in which the district makes strategic-decisions regarding school openings and closings. These decisions provide the basis for recruiting and developing school leaders to fill gaps created by portfolio actions.

Phase 1 – Portfolio: Ongoing

Identifies Needs: This strategic and data-based decision-making process (described in Lever 1) helps the district determine what types of schools or programs are needed and where.

Phase 2 – Leader Recruitment and Selection Process

Meets Demand: The overall objective is to bring on entrepreneurial and talented leaders to create new schools and programs in need-areas as identified by the portfolio process. Some strategies include open calls for applications to create new schools or programs (Denver, New York City) or more top-down approaches of identifying skilled leaders and inviting them to fill gaps.

Phase 3 – New Leader Development

Creating Space for Leaders to Succeed: Examples of successful new school strategies, such as the Office of New Schools in New York City, understand that even in “year zero,” planning to open a new school is a demanding task. It is imperative that these leaders are given the time and support they need to plan. In New York, leaders are released from their positions to plan and given 30+ days of leadership coaching.

Phase 4 – Community Engagement

Forming Relationships: This work involves including both the new school community (e.g. parents and neighbors) and potential community partners that can support the work.

Phase 5 – Post-Opening Support: Year One

Sustaining Success: Support for new leaders must extend beyond the first day of launching their new school. Leaders need ongoing coaching and operational flexibility to succeed.

2.3 Develop capacity to create and grow schools and programs


+ As with Lever 1, you don't need a full team to start the work - identify a project lead first and then focus on building capacity.

Fully built, you should expect to see a dedicated team of individuals running two distinct but connected workstreams. First, there is the annual process of identifying and encouraging entrepreneurial school leaders (in-district or out) to launch new schools. The work does not end here. Once identified, these leaders need support on all fronts - leadership development, hiring and teacher development, academics, and operations. Look for a diverse range of skillsets and do not hesitate to pull in team members from other departments to provide integrated support for new schools.

Focus on the following skills required to successfully implement Lever 2:

Program Management – Organize and track work plans, create the appropriate working and decision-making processes, ensuring stakeholders are engaged, and supporting the work itself.

Analytics – Aggregate and integrate data from multiple functions and systems including your school performance framework, talent and evaluation data, and operations data to ensure new schools are progressing as planned and that they are getting the supports they need.

Change Management – Navigate the process of converting to a school creation and support model internally, communicating the “why” and the “what” to other central office teams and enlisting their support. Work with school leaders to make the case for these new policies.

Problem Solving – Create solutions for the system and process by adapting to feedback and other constraints, such as limited data, community voice, phrasing, etc.

Communications – Convey complex, technical information to a wide audience, while balancing rigor and credibility with ease of understanding.

Customer Service Orientation – View principals as the customers; work with them to eliminate barriers to providing a high-level of customization and pay attention to the needs of specific school communities as they launch.

It is most important to name a leader with the practical experience and organizational knowledge to get started in this work. As with other levers, start with what you have and build from there.

+ Some possible roles are outlined below, with the understanding that these will vary based on your district’s context. Consider these a guide to frame your thinking about how to build out your office.

Role: Ownership of New Schools

Position: Chief of New Schools, Chief Academic Officer

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Visible leader overseeing innovation in the district, including managing the new school application process and ongoing support for new schools.

  • Develops buy-in for new school concepts among internal and external stakeholders, including liaising with senior stakeholders.

  • Ensures senior leadership visibility and support of the new school process.

Role: Execution of the New Schools Process

Position: Executive Director; 2 levels from the superintendent, reporting to Chief

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Serves as the primary point of contact for the new school application process.

  • Oversees the development of the new school application process including criteria, applications, timeline, and review process.

  • Leads the development and execution of processes and policies related to new school creation.

  • Manages the new schools approval processes, including replications of existing schools and recruitment of external school providers, including charter schools.

  • Liaises with priority stakeholders to garner support for new schools.

  • Supervises new schools application office staff.

Role: New School Process Support Team Staff

Position: Analyst, Senior Analyst, or Manager; 3-4 levels down from the superintendent

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Works with the Executive Director to develop new school application process.
  • Manages the new school application process on an annual basis.
  • Acts as the first point of contact with principals and new school leaders expressing interest to apply for the creation of a new school or program.
  • Markets the new school application process internally and externally to generate applications.

Role: Execution of the School Support Process

Position: Executive Director; 2 levels from the superintendent, reporting to Chief

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Serves as the primary point of contact for the school support process.
  • Oversees the development of training and professional development, ongoing support for newly created schools in the launch years.
  • Works with a cross-functional team of Academics, Operations, Finance and other district functions to clear barriers and ensure principals are receiving integrated support.
  • Manages the new schools support process annually.
  • Supervises new schools support staff.

Role: School Support Team Leader

Position: Senior Manager or Director; 2-3 levels from the superintendent, reporting to the Executive Director or Chief

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Plans, implements, supervises support for schools - includes managing a team of functional area leads in Talent, Academics, and Operations to provide specific support to principals.
  • Collects and manages the data inputs.
  • Communicates with school leaders.
  • Interfaces with other district staff to provide support to principals.

Role: School Support Team Staff (functional expertise in Academics, Operations, and Talent)

Position: Analyst, Senior Analyst, or Manager; 3-4 levels down from the superintendent

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Works with school support team leader to provide training and other support to new school leaders.
  • Develops and delivers specific trainings and ongoing support in the three key areas of Academics, Talent, and Operations.
  • Serves as the first point of contact with principals.

Role: Data Analysis / Process Support

Position: Analyst, Senior Analyst, or Manager; 3-4 levels down from the superintendent

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Works as the primary data analyst to support the office of new schools.
  • Organizes input files to capture required data for the analysis.
  • Prepares data visuals for managers.


An organizational chart and clear roles and responsibilities for district staff charged with a new school strategy