WMU researchers' school renewal project expands with $15M grant

Contact: Chris Hybels
Students write on papers at a desk.

Students in an elementary classroom at Galesburg Augusta Primary School were observed for literacy as part of HIL 1.0.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's High-Impact Leadership (HIL) for School Renewal Project has been renewed and awarded $15 million by the U.S. Department of Education. The project, now called HIL 2.0, will continue work focusing on two major outcomes—developing a strong pool of practicing school leaders and improving student achievement within elementary and middle schools.


"HIL Project 1.0 started in 2017 and finished early this year," says Dr. Jianping Shen, co-principal investigator and project director. "We found that HIL 1.0 increased principal leadership and made a positive impact on student proficiency in English language arts. With HIL 2.0, there will be more expansion and progression."


The original project focused primarily on implementation of evidence-based literacy practices.  HIL 2.0 expands the focus to the implementation of literacy and math plus social-emotional learning and development practices.  Each school will decide how to use the HIL Principles, Practices, and Process to achieve student success goals and targets they select through an appreciative inquiry process. Another feature of HIL 2.0 will be the inclusion of both elementary and middle schools in order to make an impact on students from grade K through 8.  

Dr. Patricia Reeves, co-principal investigator and project director, adds “the HIL School Renewal Model is designed to help schools achieve sustainable implementation of evidence-based practices for student success.  It is also designed to complement and help schools achieve their district strategic and continuous improvement plans.  We do this by helping school teams (principals, teachers, and others) work together to increase the rate and degree of implementation while co-leading, co-owning and co-creating their pathway to better student outcomes.”

The new project will provide professional development and facilitation to 150 schools elementary and middle schools in up to 80 school districts across Michigan. Principals and teachers at the schools will be working with project facilitators to learn and apply the HIL 2.0 School Renewal Principles, Practices, and Process.

"We plan to work with the schools over a three-year period and randomize them into two groups, with cohort 2A going first for two and a half years. At the end of that period, we will do some analysis to see the effect and we will utilize the last six months to do a shortened training program with cohort 2B for them to receive some benefits as well," explains Shen. "We anticipate three years from now we will have data on the implementation side and also on the efficacy side. From there, our team will continue refining our work and fine tuning the school renew model to make it even more effective for dissemination across the state and the country."

about the High Impact Leadership (HIL) for School Renewal Project

The High Impact Leadership (HIL) Project for School Renewal is a grant-funded project to support school principals and teacher leaders. Its goal is to develop high-impact school leadership for school renewal, with a focus on implementing the GELN Literacy Essentials within Reading Now Network (RNN) elementary schools. For more information, visit the HIL Project website.  

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