UW–Madison research team part of $102 million Wallace Foundation initiative to examine equity-centered principal pipelines


Faculty members from UW–Madison’s School of Education will be playing important roles in studying a major new effort supported by the Wallace Foundation. The foundation’s Equity-Centered Pipeline initiative includes eight large, high-needs school districts across the United States that will create principal pipelines to prepare school leaders who can bring a district’s own vision of equity and student success to fruition.

The Wallace Foundation estimates the cost of the program to be $102 million over the next five years. These efforts, which begin this fall, will be led at the local level by each district, in partnership with community organizations, two university leader preparation programs, and the state education agency. The eight participating districts are: Baltimore City Public Schools, Maryland; Columbus City, Ohio; District of Columbia Public Schools, District of Columbia; Fresno Unified School District, California; Jefferson County School District, Kentucky; Portland Public Schools, Oregon; San Antonio Independent School District, Texas; and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, North Carolina.

The team of researchers from UW–Madison will be leading one key aspect of this work with a project titled, A CALL for Equity-Centered Leadership (CALL-ECL). These efforts will document district attempts to prepare a new generation of school leaders, and will create support tools to guide equity-centered leadership in schools.

Rich Halverson and John Diamond
Rich Halverson (left) and John Diamond are lead researchers on a six-year, $8 million project titled, A CALL for Equity-Centered Leadership.

“The CALL-ECL project will tackle one of the most important education issues today: Can we prepare leaders to create more equitable schools for students and communities?” says UW–Madison’s Richard Halverson, who is a lead researcher on the six year, $8 million grant that will allow the team to study the work of the districts and develop tools to help support the principal pipeline efforts.

“As a sociologist of education, my work has always focused on the causes and consequences of educational inequality, as well as the possibilities for transformation,” says UW–Madison’s John Diamond, a lead investigator with Halverson and his colleague in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. “This project provides a unique opportunity to work toward meaningful change, on a large scale, with ample resources.”

The Wallace Foundation has a strong record of supporting school leadership practice and research. Over the past 20 years, Wallace-supported research found that effective principals have a strong, positive impact on students and schools. A 2021 Wallace Foundation Report, “How Principals Affect Students and Schools,” explains how an effective principal has nearly the same impact on student achievement as an effective teacher — but across an entire school. There is similarly strong evidence for the benefits of comprehensive, aligned principal pipelines of the kind that the eight districts across the country plan to develop.

The next generation of Wallace research will explore successful strategies for developing and selecting high-quality principals who can be effective in identifying and overcoming the deep, structural causes of inequity that shape many schools.

“This is an exciting project that is rooted in the deep well of knowledge that the Wallace Foundation has helped develop around principal leadership,” says Diamond, who holds the School of Education’s Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education. “I am really happy to be involved in extending that knowledge in ways that I am convinced will have practical impacts.”

“We are honored to be a part of this ambitious project,” adds Halverson. “As a nation, we urgently need a new generation of school leaders who can create conditions for teaching and learning in schools that support social justice, achievement, and equity.”

Welton and Kelley
Faculty members from UW–Madison involved with the CALL-ECL project team include co-PIs Anjalé Welton (left) and Carolyn Kelley, also both from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Faculty members from UW–Madison involved with the CALL-ECL project team include: Halverson and Diamond as principal investigators, with co-PIs Anjalé Welton and Carolyn Kelley from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Welton is a nationally recognized expert in anti-racist school leadership, and Kelley has spent more than two decades studying the effects of leadership on student learning. Additional UW-Madison connections include Mark Blitz from the Wisconsin Center for Education Products and Services, who will guide the CALL-ECL survey development process, while the project will be housed in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

This project will feature Halverson and Kelley’s Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL) suite of services and tools. The project will draw on insights from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis’ new principal preparation programs, and experiences to develop, test and implement a new version of the CALL toolkit to assess and support Equity-Centered Leadership (CALL-ECL).

“The new CALL-ECL toolkit will support the leadership work that matters to improve equitable teaching and learning, leadership, and outcomes,” says Halverson.

The CALL-ECL project is bringing together a team of leading U.S. researchers and leadership educators, including: Louis Gomez from the University of California, Los Angeles; Alex Bowers with Teachers College at Columbia University; WestEd’s Matthew Clifford; and Tammie Causey-Konaté, Wehmah Jones, and Eric Larsen from the American Institutes for Research.

“With the scope of this project and the explicit focus on educational equity and principal pipelines, I believe what we learn through this work will help inform the field about what it takes to cultivate equity-centered leadership and ultimately improve students’ learning opportunities and educational outcomes,” says Diamond.

“We believe the CALL-ECL project will deliver an actionable roadmap for how leaders can create more equitable schools,” says Halverson. “The Wallace effort to redefine equity-centered leadership preparation has the potential to transform the field of education leadership.”

To learn more about the Equity-Centered Pipeline initiative, visit this Wallace Foundation web page.