Student Achievement Grows 3x Faster in States with Bold, Sustained Leadership

Chiefs for Change
April 4, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Chiefs for Change today released a new analysis that shows students in school systems led by Chiefs for Change members — state and district Chiefs committed to student-focused change — are achieving far better results than students nationally. Moreover, when Chiefs for Change leaders have been at the helm for a sustained period of time, that sustained leadership was associated with even better student results – nearly three times more annual growth on test scores in both math and English language arts in 4th grade. These results suggest the transformative power of sustained, visionary leadership and underscore the need to ensure more of that type of leadership across the country.

“These findings affirm the founding principle of Chiefs for Change: that bold, sustained leadership matters immensely for education systems and their students,” said Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee. “I hope this serves as a wake-up call about the need to develop pipelines of bold, diverse leaders prepared to hit the ground running as education Chiefs.”

In math, 4th graders in states led by Chiefs for Change members grew more than twice as fast as their peers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) between 2005 and 2015. In math, 4th graders in states where Chiefs for Change members had been at the helm of state education agencies for a decade or more grew more than three times as fast as their peers during the same time. In reading, where the national 4th grader growth average was 1.8 percent, states led by Chiefs for Change had a growth rate of 3.1 percent, and states where Chiefs for Change members led for 10 or more years had a 5.1 percent growth rate.

“In today’s education landscape, leadership at the state and local levels is a significant factor in helping all of our kids reach their full potential, and building a pipeline of skilled and qualified future education Chiefs is more important now than ever before,” said Chiefs for Change member and former New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera.

This analysis was released in conjunction with the event to officially launch the third cohort of Future Chiefs, bold and innovative state and district education leaders who are transforming our nation’s schools and preparing for even larger roles in our education system. Given the findings on the relationship between continuity of vision and student results, there is an urgent need for the sort of preparation and collective learning opportunities the Future Chiefs program provides, including coaching and mentorship from outstanding current Chiefs. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are also core to the Future Chiefs program, because diversity not only strengthens organizations, it directly benefits students. Leaders of color comprise 89 percent of the new cohort of Future Chiefs officially launching today.

“Future Chiefs will help better prepare a diverse group to step up and lead schools, districts, and states so that we continue to improve both equity and excellence for students,” said John B. King Jr., President and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education.

About Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education Chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.

For questions about the content of this brief, contact Margie Yeager, Chiefs for Change Director of Advocacy and Policy, at