About Us

The Washington State Leadership Academy (WSLA) is a partnership between the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA) and the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP). The Washington School Principals’ Education Foundation acts as the fiscal agent for WSLA.


Acknowledging the research that supports the value of quality school and district leadership, the 2007 Washington State Legislature created the Washington State Leadership Academy and approved two years of funding for the development and pilot phases. [See Sec 1, Second Substitute Senate Bill, SSSB 5955.

It was the intent of the legislation to form a public-private partnership, with funding contingent upon obtaining additional private support. Private funding was secured in October 2007 through a three-year grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Another requirement of the legislation was that the Leadership Academy be supported by a national research institution with demonstrated expertise in educational leadership. That condition was met by contracting with the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) in July 2007 to serve as WSLA’s primary technical assistance organization.

Staffing for the design and development of the Leadership Academy began in late 2007, with the hiring of Dale Kinsley as director and Merrilou Harrison as the leadership learning specialist. In March 2008, Amy Riggs was contracted to serve as the communications and technology specialist.
The first half of 2008 also witnessed the research and design phase of the project. A Design Team comprised of a wide variety of stakeholders was created to:
1.    Research current curriculum content and best practices for leadership training and professional development.
2.    Create a comprehensive curriculum and coaching system based on the research that will meet the needs of school and district leaders on all levels of professional development.
3.    Work with the nine educational service districts to implement a delivery system that will allow participation throughout the state using online technology, where it is deemed appropriate.

A Curriculum Team of expert practitioners was formed to craft the Leadership Academy’s content and connection to coaching.
The process of coach, instructor, and participant selection began in late spring and the first cohort of participants was announced to include four educational service districts, which would include 20 district teams and one ESD team.
Subsequently, seven instructors and 19 coaches were contracted to provide service in the 2008–09 pilot year.

The pilot year kicked off with a two-day statewide seminar session in September 2008 in SeaTac. In the Spring of 2013, an additional program was developed in partnership with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to meet the statewide required training for the new Principal Evaluation Program.

July 2014 Update

Including the pilot year, 52 districts teams (and 2 ESD teams) have completed the two-year Leadership Academy. In July 2013, a statewide problem of practice was adopted for the Year 1 Cohort Teams. WSLA is also completing the Principal Evaluation work during the 2014-15 school year.The 2013 Washington State Legislature reaffirmed its support of WSLA with continued funding. Fifteen district teams will move into year two and a new cohort will begin in the fall.


Evaluation. The Washington State Leadership Academy (WSLA) is intent on remaining fully accountable to stakeholders and partners.
Following a solicitation and review of proposals, WSLA selected The BERC Group in April 2007 to serve as an external evaluator of the Academy’s work. From 2007-2010, The BERC Group built a history, observing meetings, and designing the evaluation plan, which included periodic reports throughout the pilot phase.

The evaluation confirmed that the Academy intent to remain relevant, focused, and achieve results. The overall focus of the study was to provide evidence of the ability of the Washington State Leadership Academy to impact school leadership processes in ways that result in increased student achievement.

We continue to evaluate and assess our work contracting with an outside research group. For 2014 and2015, our contract is with the BERC Group. The BERC Group researchers observe at Regional and State-wide Workshops; conduct focus groups and use written surveys to gain information from a random sample of current and past WSLA participants, other administrators and teachers from participating districts, current WSLA coaches, and current WSLA instructors; and review student achievement data from current and past participating districts. The most current report is included below.

Year 6 Interim Report – July 2014, The BERC Group

Business Plan. The firm, Social Market Strategies, also was hired in early 2008 to build a business plan for the Academy. The five-year plan includes an overview of the competition, revenue and pricing models, growth plans, and potential risks.