News

Teachers matter. Yes. Schools matter. Yes. Districts matter — really?

Publication date: Sep 29, 2015

By Karin Chenoweth, Oct. 2015

More than a decade of research demonstrating the importance of school leaders in creating school culture has intensified attention on their role in student
achievement. But they don’t work in isolation. School districts shape the conditions in which schools operate and as such can support or undermine school
success and thus student success. All of which is to say — to steal a phrase — school districts matter.

But how?

This is not an easy question, in part, because the landscape of the nation’s more than 13,000 school districts is incredibly diverse. Some are behemoths
with hundreds of thousands of students (New York City and Los Angeles); some are tiny with just a few hundred. Making any definitive statement about districts is almost impossible, except to note that school districts form one of the fundamental political building blocks of American democracy.

For those looking to improve education at scale rather than school-by-school, understanding the levers of improvement available to districts is important.
Research has established some general principles. But it is often diff cult to understand in an immediate, palpable way what a central office can do to make a difference for students. This article examines the actions and experiences of two districts to offer lessons and examples of what districts can do to make broad improvements that affect all their students rather than having pockets of success in certain schools.

Read the full article at Phi Delta Kappan

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