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Beat the Odds School Leadership Academy

Why it matters

Great schools require great school leaders, and CFA recognizes the critical link between strong principals and student success. Research studies have found that principals account for approximately 25% of a school’s total impact on student achievement. The role of principal has greatly expanded beyond purely administrative responsibilities to now include the role of instructional leader and architect of the school’s teaching and learning environments. Principals who act as effective instructional leaders are cited by classroom teachers as a key reason they continue to stay in the profession. Great school leaders create a culture of excellence, drive school performance, and improve teacher retention and student outcomes. To be great, these leaders must be supported through a curriculum of training and development.

How it works

The Beat the Odds School Leadership Academy (BTO Academy) provides executive leadership training to current and aspiring school and district leaders across Arizona. Following the nationally recognized National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) curriculum, it draws on the strongest leadership development practices from education, business, and the military and is proven to impact student achievement for all learners. Graduates of the BTO Academy form a powerful community of school and district leaders equipped with the essential knowledge and skills to lead for excellence and equity, enhance teacher retention and quality, create a culture of high expectations in their learning communities, and raise achievement outcomes for all students.

The BTO Academy provides training to groups of 25-30 current and aspiring school leaders who come together over 12-15 months for in-depth, inquiry-based, and job-embedded executive development in a cohort-based format. Virtual and hybrid delivery models of the curriculum were added in spring 2020. Training is locally delivered by BTO Academy trainers who are proven Arizona education leaders, recognized in the field, and nationally NISL-certified. The BTO Academy recently expanded to include coaching and mentoring for school leaders. Coaches build a strong relationship with their principals and focus on individually supporting leaders’ ability to think strategically, manage change, and execute best practices in instructional leadership.

CFA launched the BTO Academy in 2017 with public-private investment support from the Office of the Governor, Helios Education Foundation, and the Burton Family Foundation. CFA is rapidly expanding the BTO Academy to support educational excellence and equity in communities across our state.

Our impact

  • Trained 30+ nationally certified BTO Academy trainers
  • Trained more than 345 school leaders across 52 public school districts and charter networks in eight counties, impacting 130,000+ students
  • Designed and launched a research-based BTO Academy coaching model to support school leaders in implementing their knowledge, skills, and action-learning in their schools and districts
  • Created pathways for graduate credit and certification for BTO Academy participants through a significant partnership with Northern Arizona University


BTO Academy Participants
Facilitators deliver a rigorous professional development program for enrolled participants designed to enable school transformation. The results are better quality schools and better outcomes for all student learners in every community.


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Our Partners

District Partners

  • Alhambra Elementary School District
  • Apache Junction Unified School District
  • Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind
  • Casa Grande Elementary District
  • Casa Grande Union High School District
  • Central Arizona College
  • Coconino County Education Service
  • Deer Valley Unified School District
  • Empower College Prep
  • Flagstaff Unified School District
  • Florence Unified School District
  • Imagine Schools
  • Kingman Unified School District
  • Littleton Elementary School District
  • Madison Elementary School District
  • Maricopa Unified School District
  • Mesa Public Schools
  • Mountain Charter School Flagstaff
  • Paradise Valley Unified School District
  • Peak Charter School Flagstaff
  • Phoenix Union High School District
  • Pinal County Education Service Agency
  • Roosevelt Elementary School District
  • Santa Cruz Union High School in Ajo
  • TeamCFA & Western School of Science and Technology
  • Tolleson Elementary School District
  • Toltec Elementary School District
  • Town of Florence

Key National Partners

  • National Center for Education and the Economy

Key Funders

  • Arizona GEAR UP
  • Arizona Public Service
  • Arizona Office of the Governor
  • Burton Family Foundation
  • Helios Foundation
  • Northern Arizona State University
  • Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community
  • Salt River Project


Morning Scoop: What Do Arizona Voters Want?

June 04, 2024
8:00am – 9:00am
Online Zoom Event

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