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Leverage Leadership

A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools

"If you are a school leader, or want to become one, Leverage Leadership is the most important book you can own. Read it and use it!" -Mark Murphy, Delaware Secretary of Education

There’s a painful truth across American schools that rarely gets acknowledged: Principals spend over 90% of their time focused on tasks that do little to increase student achievement. Now, in his second groundbreaking book, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo details how successful school leaders have broken that paradigm, enabling game-changing results for students.

In Leverage Leadership Bambrick-Santoyo meticulously shows the steps that great school leaders take to promote effective teaching and transform lackluster or even good schools into great schools. The book’s companion DVD includes 30 video clips of top-tier leaders in action, offering a path for any leader that wants to replicate the results garnered by schools in Leverage Leadership.

The author deconstructs the myths behind the work of the modern-day principal and offers concrete guidelines for a new paradigm in school leadership. After years of running his own high-performing schools and studying the habits of other successful school leaders, Bambrick-Santoyo has settled on seven crucial levers that great principals employ that ensure schools produce the best results. Leverage Leadership also includes a chapter by Brett Peiser, Uncommon Schools’ former Managing Director of New York City and new CEO, who has worked extensively to learn how to assess and build staff culture, one of the seven levers.

This marks Bambrick-Santoyo’s second book. His first, Driven by Data, which details how schools can use focused assessments to vastly improve student performance, has sold more than forty thousand copies and is widely regarded as a must-read for educators committed to making data-driven instruction a reality in their schools.

The roots of Bambrick-Santoyo’s work stem from his ten years at Uncommon Schools, where he manages North Star Academy, seven public charter schools in Newark, N.J., where students are nearly all low-income and minority but outperform their white, affluent counterparts across the state and country.

Over 7,000 visitors from around the globe have visited North Star, seeking insight into the instructional strategies Bambrick-Santoyo and his instructional leaders employ so successfully. In addition, Bambrick-Santoyo is a sought-after instructor—having led trainings and workshops for thousands of school leaders across the country in districts big and small.

“Bambrick’s clear, detailed blueprint will give both emerging and veteran leaders new tools for success. When it comes to school leadership, we’ve all been looking for guidance: now we have it,” said Jean-Claude Brizard, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

For more information or to purchase the book, click here.

The Seven Levers



Without great teaching, nothing else matters. The first four levers push every teacher to continually improve and excel.


Without great culture, student learning cannot thrive.

Data-Driven Instruction

If you teach and students do not learn, is it really teaching? You cannot know if students are learning at the highest levels if you don’t assess that learning. Data-driven instruction, then, becomes a road map for rigor. Thousands of schools have followed the data-driven instructional model highlighted in Driven by Data, leading to significant gains in achievement.

Observation and Feedback

A tennis player never got better by a semi-annual observation & review of their performance. The best coaching happens on-the-spot: in repeated, consistent, small chunks. Exceptional school leaders don’t leave this to chance: they build a schedule that allows teachers to get more development in one year than most do in twenty.


You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a map. Thoughtful lesson and unit planning does the same thing for teaching. Leaders can make that planning even more effective by supporting teachers directly in the planning process, preventing problems before they occur.

Professional Development

What keeps professional development from being a series of isolated workshops that have little impact on instruction? Great leaders connect it to the other instructional levers, creating an avenue for giving teachers multiple chances to practice before implementing in the classroom.

Student Culture

Student culture is not formed by motivational speeches or statements of values. It is formed by repeated practice—using every minute of every day to build good habits. From opening morning routines to the final bell, students receive a constant message that nothing is as important—and engaging—as learning.

Staff Culture

Great staff cultures don’t come from irreplicable charisma; they come from a consistent number of tiny actions that create a strong foundation. From hiring to onboarding to daily interactions, exceptional leaders keep their ear to the rail to ensure a positive, joyful, strong staff community.

Managing and Developing an Instructional Leadership Team

Teams don’t win championships with only one star player. Highly effective principals develop other leaders to implement the seven levers and then hold them accountable for change. This sets up a culture where everyone is improving their craft.