Get the resources you need to take your school to the next level

Click here to apply now

Applications are open for the 2023 Growth Accelerator

The Growth Accelerator: a leadership program that understands your school's unique situation so you can get the results you need. 

The Growth Accelerator supports current K-12 school principals and their leadership teams in creating more equitable schools by developing systems and leadership skills that advance equity work in their buildings and lead to student academic success. The intersection of leadership and systems is the core of equity work, and the focus of all program content is on helping leaders develop their abilities in these areas.

As the places where children spend most of their time learning, we want our schools to reflect the world we would like to see; to reduce inequity rather than increase it. In order to do that, we must rethink the way we approach schooling, shifting from a focus on changing student behavior and mindsets to changing systems and adult mindsets. The Growth Accelerator supports each individual school and school leader in our program to identify and eliminate school dysfunction and inequities.

The Growth Accelerator focuses on three core principles of what schools need:

  1. Systems, structures, and adult mindsets that align with the expectation that all students will achieve.
  2. A positive, relationships-based culture that fosters student belonging and is conducive to high levels of achievement.
  3. Instruction that centers on what (and which) students learned, with support to make high achievement possible.

Putting it all together

This is more than just coaching: over the course of this three-year program, Growth Accelerator leaders will grapple with content in small groups, assess and reflect on the current state of their own school and their own personal leadership skills, and create a strategic plan to implement at their school.

Through monthly Forums, participants are empowered to deepen their understanding and skills with ongoing professional learning, cohort problem-solving, and continued progress monitoring and course correction of their strategic plan.

Individual leadership support through one-on-one Advisory brings the intersection of leadership development together with system development. In these coaching sessions, leaders are focused on further developing their individualized leadership growth plan.

Growth Accelerator Leaders are uniquely trained in the following ways: 

  • Strategic Planning: start with a strategic plan based on opportunities and challenges of the school and proven practices
  • Visibility and Accountability: centers on proactive measurement and iteration, constantly asking the question, “Is it working?”
  • Shortened Data Cycles: weekly feedback on whether students are learning which allows principals to enable remediation and continuous teaching improvement
  • Course Correction: monthly one-on-one Advisory sessions help principals determine what is/is not working and develop proactive course correction for students and teachers while there is still time to make adjustments before high-stakes assessments
  • Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement: develop a schoolwide culture for students, teachers, and staff steeped in the value of continuous learning and growth


Madison Metropolitan School District

The best. Bar none… This training was tailored specifically to me and my school’s needs. It set the entire year up for success!

Growth Accelerator FAQs

How does the Growth Accelerator work?


Forums (5-6/year)


  • One-on-one Advisory support to build transformational leadership skills
  • Customized support in developing school action plans grounded in the data


Experts conduct 3 school assessments a year over a 3-year period to establish and measure school goals and priorities


  • Enrollment in Accelerate Summer Institute
  • Strategic planning skill development
  • Develop and refine management capabilities to drive organizational change

What is the cost?

Accelerate Institute identifies champion investors to fund the full cost of the program. Because of this, there is no financial cost to schools that are accepted into the Growth Accelerator.

Who benefits from the Growth Accelerator?

The Growth Accelerator is designed for School Principals. It will help you expand your knowledge and skills in change management, systems development, and the Transformational Leadership Building Blocks in order to accelerate academic growth. You’ll also learn how to build team capacity while staying aligned to your school’s goals and vision.

With this new skillset, you will be able to level up Principal Managers and Leadership Teams to ensure alignment within the team—and with your plans.

How can my school apply for the Growth Accelerator?

The principal of the school should complete the school’s application. The selection process for the Growth Accelerator includes the following steps:

  • Application
  • Principal Phone Screen
  • School Assessment
    • Part 1: Staff Survey (at least 75% of your staff must complete this anonymous, online survey)
    • Part 2: Video interviews with the principal and principal’s manager
    • Part 3: Video interviews with school leadership team members (if needed)
  • Dashboard Review (Accelerate Institute staff will review the results of the School Assessment with the school principal and the principal’s manager/supervisor)
  • Confirm participation through contract (district) or MOU (charter)

Please contact Alexis Hardy for more information.

What are the selection criteria for the Growth Accelerator?
As schools move through the selection process our team will be looking for the following criteria:

  • School is a public school (traditional district or charter) located in an Accelerator region (2023 Accelerator: Chicago)
  • Principal Manager/Supervisor is invested in school participation in the Growth Accelerator
  • Principal exhibits growth mindset, recognizing the opportunity for growth and change at their school and with their own leadership
  • Healthy adult culture; teaching staff and leadership team are supportive of principal’s vision for the school even if that vision includes change
  • Principal is a strategic thinker who is committed to improving their school so students are successful academically and feel safe, respected, and motivated
  • Principal commits to attend Accelerate Summer Institute (10 days); Leadership Team Members commit to 2 days of Accelerate Summer Institute

Questions? Please contact Alexis Hardy

Should your school apply for the 2023 Growth Accelerator?

Take this quick eligibility questionnaire

What is the Accelerate Framework?

Accelerate Institute developed the Accelerate Framework to guide school change; it is the basis for assessing a school’s strengths, areas of growth, and opportunities and is grounded in patterns found in successful gap-closing schools. The Accelerate Framework is based on six objectives:

1. Change Management: Strategic planning is used to guide change management with an 80/20 focus

2. High-Performing Team: The team is committed to the vision, strategies, and tactics to accomplish school/team goals.

3. Constructive Environment: A highly constructive learning environment exists that supports academic productivity.

4. Aspirational Environment: A highly aspirational learning environment exists that honors student experience while inspiring future accomplishments

5. Data-Driven Culture: Assessment data is used to drive differentiation

6. Black Belt Teaching: Teachers effectively plan and implement the curriculum

What are the Transformational Leadership Building Blocks?

These 9 competencies are integral to a leader’s ability to implement meaningful change. Just as schools are continuous works in progress, so are leaders themselves. Truly transformational leaders continue to develop and refine their abilities in the Building Blocks.

  • Get It: Understand all the challenges and complexities of leading in a historically underperforming, under-resourced school and neighborhood
  • Strategic Thinking and Planning: Goal-oriented with the ability to prioritize while creating strong systems, structures, and processes within the school that are efficient and effective
  • Communication: Effectively communicate to a wide variety of audiences (parents, students, staff, etc.) in both verbal and written format
  • Instruction: Possess a clear understanding of the learning standards and effective teaching practice
  • Professionalism: Display professionalism and maturity by meeting all deadlines and exhibiting behavior, communication, and body language that is consistently respectful and positive
  • Relationship Building: Build trust and loyalty amongst entire staff; operate with candor and transparency; leverage their strengths and emotional intelligence
  • Coachability: Exhibit self-awareness and openness to discuss their own strengths and weaknesses and implement action steps that lead to growth
  • Resilience: Demonstrate persevering through challenges with a focus on the original goal
  • Confidence: Stand up for beliefs and have the ability to make important decisions, even when unpopular; the leader’s presence exudes a perfect balance of confidence and humility

What should I know about Accelerate Summer Institute?

The Accelerator program starts with Accelerate Summer Institute (Year 1 only). This time acts as the academic foundation for principals and their leadership teams. Every year, Accelerator principals share that Summer Institute is one of the most important and helpful experiences, allowing them the space to reflect, learn, connect, grow, and prepare their strategic plans for the upcoming school year.

The 2023 Accelerate Summer Institute will be:

  • Days 1-5: June 26-30, 2023
  • Days 6-10: July 17-21, 2023

Accelerator Principals must attend all 10 days of Summer Institute; leadership team members attend for 2 days during that time (exact dates TBD) but do not attend the full Institute. Please make sure to mark these dates on your and your team’s calendars.

What is the average size and demographic make-up of the cohort?

On average, each Growth Accelerator cohort includes 8-12 schools. For the 2022-23 school year we are supporting a total of 26 schools (across 3 cohorts) – 89% of our Accelerator Principals are people of color, 85% are women, and 15% are men. The schools we support are all located in Chicago with 50% being traditional district schools and 50% being charter schools; 15% of the schools are high schools, 8% are middle schools, and 77% are elementary schools. On average our schools are serving a student population that is 96% students of color and 82% low-income.

Who are the Accelerator Advisors?

Our Accelerator Program team is led by Jillian Carew. The Advisors (Emily Lockhart, Erin Slack, and Velia Soto) who directly coach and develop our Accelerator Principals are all former Chicago school principals with significant experience coaching school leaders. Advisors act as thought partners, PD facilitators, accountability partners, and confidantes to our Accelerator Principals. You can learn more about each of them here.

How have past participants benefited from access to both a local and national network of leaders through Accelerate Institute?

Accelerator Principals regularly name the relationships they develop with their cohort members as one of the most valuable components of the Growth Accelerator. Cohort members provide insight, knowledge, and support to each other throughout the program. Accelerate Institute also provides opportunities for different cohorts (including alumni) to come together and learn from each other during the bi-annual strategic planning retreats.

Accelerate Institute Principals Across the United States 

Accelerate Institute has supported more than 50 principals through targeted region-based programming with the Growth Accelerator. The program supports these principals for three years to ensure their success as transformational school leaders.

View the roster here

Chicago Growth Accelerator Fund Investors

John and Rita Canning Family Foundation

Beth and Larry Gies

Illinois Tool Works Foundation

Annie and Gregory K. Jones Family

Mike and Lindy Keiser

Carol and Larry Levy

Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation

Muneer Satter and Kristen Hertel/Satter Foundation

Bruce and Beth White

Click here to apply now

Applications are open for the 2023 Growth Accelerator