Advancing Principal Leadership in Urban Schools


Our goal is to support school and district leaders in creating exemplary urban schools: schools that achieve outstanding academic results for every demographic group of students. Based upon our studies of many of America’s best urban schools, our A-PLUS program helps leaders influence the rigor of curricula, the effectiveness of instruction, and the quality of school culture in ways that improve learning results for every demographic group.



A-PLUS Networks become “professional learning communities” for school leaders, as they focus on improving school culture, curricula, and instruction in ways that generate strong learning results for every demographic group served. These data-rich conversations are designed to help principals and their leadership teams define, implement, and refine concrete, measurable progress toward equity and excellence.


Our services are focused upon small groups of four or five schools within a district. We call these groups A-PLUS Networks. Minimally, an NCUST Executive Coach meets with each network once a month on the campus of one of the network schools. Additionally, the coach meets monthly on an individual basis with each principal. Also, we take our A-PLUS Networks to visit schools with similar demographics that we have awarded and studied. To ensure strong alignment with district initiatives, the coach meets at least with the individual who supervises the participating principals.


We enter into only a few partnerships with districts. We are a small organization and we know that we are most likely to make a positive difference if we expend the quality and quantity of effort necessary to support each partner district in making outstanding academic gains. We tailor each partnership in a manner that builds upon existing district initiatives so that schools experience focus and cohesion. Our frequent interactions with principals and school leadership teams are based on the practices we have found in real urban schools that achieve both excellent and equitable learning results.


Schools that generate outstanding results for all demographic groups have coherent systems for constantly improving the rigor of curricula, the effectiveness of instruction, and the quality of the school culture for all groups of students. Schools become better places to teach and better places for all groups of students to learn. 

A-PLUS utilizes real practices learned from highly successful schools that serve low-income communities and do not use selective admissions. A-PLUS helps leaders utilize these practices (as documented in NCUST publications) to develop and strengthen coherent educational improvement systems.

Leadership in America's Best Urban Schools
Teaching Practices from Americas Best Urban Schools
Five Practices for Improving the Success of Latino Students Book Cover

Through A-PLUS, leaders guide their teams in:

  • identifying a small number of specific, critical academic standards that students have not mastered. 
  • developing rigorous common formative assessments that can gauge mastery of those standards.
  • developing high-quality initial lessons (effective Tier I instruction) likely to result in diverse students achieving mastery of the specific standards.
  • developing strong systems of intervention and enrichment to ensure deep learning for all students.


Also, A-PLUS supports leaders in pursuing all the above in a way that leads educators throughout the school to feel valued, supported, and respected as members of a professional community making a positive difference in the lives of students.

Most importantly, A-PLUS supports leaders in pursuing all the above in a way that leads all students (regardless of race, ethnicity, language background, family income, or other demographic variables) to feel valued, respected, capable, and loved.

Finally, to help ensure each participating school’s success, NCUST coaches meet regularly with the district leaders who supervise the schools to maximize district support for improvement.



Concourse Village Elementary School
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