Start a New School

Create a New Academy or New School to Add to your District Portfolio


ISA partners with school districts and other organizations to create new small college preparatory high schools, including Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools, starting with the 9th grade and adding a grade per year.  ISA’s approach develops a college-going culture with norms and practices designed for student and school success.  A new school strategy is typically used where districts have a small school reform strategy or desire innovation and diversity in their portfolio of high schools.

Using its Seven Principles as benchmarks, ISA collaborates with school districts to design and implement new, small, personalized, and intellectually demanding high schools for under-served and under-performing youth using a 4 ½- year systematic approach that has three interconnected components: a school development process, a leadership development program, and a teacher development program.

The overall new school planning, launching, and implementation processes are managed by ISA’s leadership, while the onsite development of individual schools is guided by a local ISA school development-leadership coach who is an experienced school practitioner with school leadership, organizational, and instructional experience. Many ISA coaches have started small urban high schools and others have taken leadership positions in such schools. During this process, ISA takes on several roles and responsibilities including professional development provider, resource manager, and school-district partner.

ISA’s new school development process has the following features:

Visioning and Initial Planning

ISA helps new principals and their teams articulate a vision for their school, which embeds the ISA principles so that they are an organic part of the school, not an add-on, and so that principals and teams have an innate sense of ownership of the principles as a core part of their vision. ISA arranges for the principals to visit existing ISA schools, talk to experienced small school starters, and supports leaders in the development of a new school plan.

Design and Development of the School Structure and Instructional Program

The ISA school development-leadership coach works closely with the team to develop the blueprint for the instructional program and the required organization. They make decisions on graduation requirements, plan backwards to create courses and schedules, develop curriculum units, and design a student support system such as advisory. They develop an assessment system that uses multiple indicators, review and order materials, and establish rituals. They work in content area curriculum teams and as a whole faculty, sharing and critiquing the work.

Selection of School Principal

ISA and the district liaison screen applications and conduct an initial round of interviews. Applicants recommended from this first round of interviews meet with ISA leaders, and those candidates who meet the qualifications for leadership of an ISA school are recommended to the district. The district then selects the prospective principal from the qualified candidate pool.

Teacher Recruitment and Hiring

The ISA school development-leadership coach works with the new school principal to identify the school’s staffing needs by linking them to the goals of their instructional program. They collaborate to develop and implement a staff recruitment and hiring plan and process. The ISA school development-leadership coach advises his/her new school principal and planning team on the composition of staff they will need for their first year.

Student Recruitment

ISA supports new schools as they recruit and identify students using the guidelines established by their school district. ISA supports the schools in the design and development of their student recruitment materials and community outreach processes, including brochures and banners, social media, and press events, so that students and parents can learn about a school’s curriculum plans, personalization strategies, and goals for students. Once schools receive their student rosters, and before the fall opening of the new school year, the new faculties work with their school development-leadership coach to plan housewarming and orientation events for parents and students, to start building a community spirit, to set expectations, to generate excitement, and to assign students a summer project intended to jump-start their education in the fall.

Formative Assessment for School Development

In order to support the new school’s organizational and instructional development, effective implementation of the ISA principles, and a culture of continuous improvement, ISA’s strategic partner, The National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, & Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, Columbia University, provides schools with different kinds of data to guide them.

Professional Development

ISA’s model invests heavily in professional development, which includes job-embedded school development-leadership coaches and content area coaching; Summer and Winter Institutes for school leaders, teachers, and counselors; and access to ISA’s web-based tools and resources. Job-embedded coaching is the core professional development component of the ISA model. ISA has school development, content area, and leadership coaches who work with faculty to implement ISA’s Seven Principles. ISA matches each new school with a school development-leadership coach, who supports leadership, teacher, counselor, team, and school development during the design and implementation phases. Content coaches in math, literacy, social studies, science, ELL, and Distributed Counseling are available on an as-needed basis to provide teachers and counselors with support in these areas.

Collaboration With District

In order to ensure coherence between district policies and practices and ISA’s program, the district assigns a senior leader as the liaison to ISA. This person works closely with ISA and the district to establish and support the conditions necessary for effective implementation of the ISA model. This ISA-district team problem-solves obstacles that may emerge in the implementation of the model and monitors progress toward outcomes.