Accelerate Institute Impact Dinner Honors Two Urban School Principals for Closing the Education Gap

South Bronx principals receive the Ryan Award and a $25,000 honorarium; Institute founder Pat Ryan, Jr. celebrates 25 years of commitment to improving urban education.

Pat Ryan, Jr., founder of The Accelerate Institute, marked 25 years of commitment to the three urban education organizations he founded in Chicago, at the Institute's annual Impact Dinner. (Photo: Business Wire)

CHICAGO--()--Two of the nation’s top school principals today received the Ryan Award for exceptional leadership in closing the education gap in urban K-12 schools. The prestigious award includes a $25,000 honorarium and the opportunity to teach their successful practices at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Pat Ryan, Jr., founder of the Chicago-based Accelerate Institute which sponsors the award, presented the winners with their awards at the Institute’s 7th annual Impact Dinner in Chicago. “We created the Ryan Awards five years ago to highlight the leaders of the most successful transformational schools in the US,” Ryan said. “This the first time both winners serve not only the same city, but the same community, the South Bronx. Our goal is to recognize the achievements of these leaders, enlist them as role models and help current and future principals learn from their successes.”

The 2017 Ryan Award winners are Alexa Sorden, founding principal of Concourse Village Elementary School, part of the New York City public school system, and Elizabeth Vandlik, principal of Success Academy Bronx 1, a public charter school. Under their leadership, both schools have consistently outperformed other schools in their states and cities, according to state proficiency tests.

Sorden founded Concourse Village Elementary in 2013 to replace a failing school serving low-income students. She placed strong emphasis on culture change through steps ranging from establishing a clear Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) to creating a uniform layout for each classroom to provide students with a strong sense of stability. By 2016, her initiatives helped the K-5 school of 356 students achieve significant learning gains, with almost 90 percent of them passing the state math exam and 94 percent passing the ELA exam, more than 50 point higher than citywide results.

Success Academy Bronx 1 serves a minority population of 475 students in grades K-4, and is part of New York City’s largest and highest-performing free, public charter school network. Vandlik became the school’s principal in 2013 after teaching kindergarten and fourth grade at Success Academy Harlem 1. Under her leadership, 83 percent of Bronx 1 students passed the state ELA exam and 99 percent passed the state math exam in 2016, compared to 38 percent and 42 percent for New York State and New York City, respectively. Vandlik is originally from Naperville, and attended Bennett Academy and then the University of Chicago.

The Ryan Award is the first national award honoring high-impact school principals in the US. Previous winners have been from Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Newark, New Orleans, Phoenix, Wilmington, Del. and Washington, D.C., all heads of schools both public and charter serving minority populations.

Ryan Award winners are nominated by education leaders across the country. Criteria are: nominees must be urban K-12 principals for at least four years with a measurable record of accelerated student achievement growth.

This year’s Impact Dinner also marked a milestone for the Accelerate Institute’s founder, Pat Ryan, Jr., who celebrated 25 years of commitment to the three urban education organizations he founded in Chicago. Ryan started his work in 1991 with the founding of the Inner-City Teaching Corps, which recruited and trained over 500 teachers throughout Chicago’s South and West sides while pioneering a revolutionary new way to train teachers. The ICTC was renamed the Accelerate Institute in 2012 and has trained more than 150 school leaders cities across the US, working with charter, district, public and inner-city Catholic schools.

Ryan also founded the Alain Locke Charter School in 1999. Despite being located in the center of the gang violence plaguing Chicago, Alain Locke students hold the record for the #1 test score gains ever in Illinois and has been ranked as one of the seven schools in the country “best in closing the achievement gap” by the US Department of Education.

The Accelerate Institute is dedicated to ensuring all children have the opportunity to achieve to their fullest potential. It is committed to closing the achievement gap by creating high-impact school leaders that accelerate student achievement. For further information on the Ryan Awards and the Accelerate Institute, visit:


Accelerate Institute
Nora Ligurotis, 312.216.1708

Release Summary

Two Bronx elementary school principals each received the 2017 Ryan Award for closing the achievement gap at The Accelerate Institute's Impact Dinner.


Accelerate Institute
Nora Ligurotis, 312.216.1708