HIL Project

In 2017, Western Michigan University researchers Dr. Patricia Reeves and Dr. Jianping Shen were awarded a $12.5M Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Grant by the U.S. Department of Education. The SEED grant funded High Impact Leadership for School Renewal work across 75 Cohort A schools across 20 counties in West Michigan. 

The project was a collaborative effort involving WMU and two statewide initiatives called the Reading Now Network and the MAISA General Education Leadership Network.

In 2020, thanks to the success of the HIL project in these schools, the grant was extended two years and made available an extra $9 M, allowing the HIL Project to serve 75 additional (Cohort B) schools through 2022.

Learn more about our SEED-funded work

Click the bars below to review additional details about our work with the HIL Project.

HIL Project Partners (2017-22)


Western Michigan University—The work of WMU researchers Dr. Patricia Reeves and Dr. Jianping Shen laid the foundation for the HIL Project School Renewal Model. By the launch of the 2017 SEED grant, together, Dr. Reeves and Dr. Shen had overseen five successful leadership grants, including two from the Wallace Foundation. "This project will continue to develop and validate the renewal model, as opposed to reform model, for school improvement," Shen said as the work launched in 2017. WMU provided all grant management and evaluation for the SEED Grant. 

Reading Now Network—The HIL Project school leadership work also had roots in the Reading Now Network, a group of West Michigan school superintendents determined to improve student reading levels by working together to build a school leadership model around the practices they observed in high-performing schools.  

MAISA GELN—The HIL Project's early literacy work was (and remains) grounded in the Essential School-Wide and Center-Wide Practices in Literacy identified by Michigan's Early Literacy Task Force—a subcommittee of the Michigan Association of School Administrators (MAISA) General Education Leadership Network (GELN) representing Michigan's 56 intermediate school districts. 

Funding and support for early literacy coaches were provided by the Michigan Department of Education and participating intermediate school districts: Allegan Area ESA, Berrien Regional ESA, Calhoun ISD, Heritage Southwest ISD, Kalamazoo RESA, Kent ISD, Mecosta-Osceola ISD, Muskegon Area ISD, Ottawa Area ISD, St. Joseph County ISD, Van Buren ISD.

  • Guido A. and Elizabeth H. Binda Foundation
  • BESCO Water Treatment
  • Metal Flow Corporation
  • Perrigo Charitable Foundation
  • Red Line Designs
  • Scholastic Corporation
  • United Way of Southwest Michigan
  • Pokagon Fund,
  • Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries

HIL Project Significant Accomplishments

Independent evaluators of our work found statistically significant gains in ELA student proficiency rates and principal and school-wide teacher leadership (on a battery of validated instruments).

  • Solidified our partnership with MAISA, MASA, MEMSPA, MAC, and the MSU Office of K-12 Outreach to help schools access and implement evidence-based student success practices
  • Worked with MDE to align our work with the MI-CIP system
  • Formed strong partnerships with ISDs and ESAs to develop complementary supports for schools
  • Trained and certified a team of School Renewal Facilitators and Coordinators
  • Expanded our work to pre-K through grade 12 in Grand Rapids through a Promise Neighborhoods grant
  • Formed the WMU Office of School Renewal under the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)
  • Developed a deep repertoire of School Renewal and school-wide leadership professional learning resources and tools
  • Developed a systemic adaptation of Instructional Rounds for School Renewal
  • Incorporated Appreciative Inquiry throughout the collaborative inquiry process
  • Provided principals and school leadership teams with actionable data, processes, and support to build capacity for transformative change 

HIL Project Stories


Over the 5-year grant period, we collected dozens of stories about the impact of High Impact Leadership in HIL Project schools. We invite you to explore our archived View from the HIL newsletters, focusing especially on the "Spotlight on Schools" articles. 

Explore the View from the HIL archives 

In Spring 2019, W Magazine featured a story about the HIL Project work in Cohort A schools across West Michigan. 

Read the W Magazine feature article (pages 8-13).



Students...reported being excited about reading...

Students across grade levels, reported being excited about reading, enjoyed reading, and felt positive about being readers at Redwood Elementary. Not only that, but there was not a significant difference between genders, nor did the love of reading decrease as students got older, as the team had predicted it would.

sCHOOL LEADER COHort b school

Staff embraced the recommendations...

The first months of the project at Grandville West were spent focusing on the HIL Principle of Positive Core—developing our mission and vision and looking at our current state through a strengths-based appreciative lens. Staff embraced the recommendations and were open to enhancing what they were already doing well along with identifying areas of need and learning how to support those areas.

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