Educators: Do You Know About Using Effective District Leadership as an Education Reform Strategy?

Highly functional systems are the product of highly functional leadership. For most schools, leadership comes in the form of district command.

However, until recently, there was very little evidence regarding effective leadership and how it functions at the school, district, and state levels. Now evidences indicates that leadership in education is vital to reform efforts. Leadership is a bridge that crosses the divide, enabling teachers to approach reform from the front line of learning. While teachers are naturally vital for education, school principals and district superintendents are advantaged by being able to construct the vision and expectations needed to deliver better teaching and learning experiences. They have the position and capability to enable everyone involved in the education system to realize that vision.

To get the leaders we want and need in every school, it’s not enough to improve their training, as urgent as that is. State and district officials also need to provide the conditions for and set out the expectations of what leaders need to know, and the actions they need to take to improve both teaching and learning. These standards should form the basis for holding leaders accountable for results. On the other hand, leaders should have the data available to inform their decisions and the authority needed to direct resources to schools and students with the greatest needs. All districts should establish policies that not only affect the recruitment, hiring, and placement of school leaders but also are explicit for evaluating leaders.

Each of these core elements for better educational leadership is crucial. And it is equally important that states and districts work together more closely to create more supportive leadership standards, training, and work conditions—to create a cohesive leadership system. Rather than engaging in isolated or uncoordinated efforts on single elements of leadership improvement, collective action by states and districts is the most likely pathway to lasting change throughout the system. Such collaboration has not been the historic norm in education policy.

Efforts at state–district policy coordination remain relatively new and are yielding both early successes and cautionary lessons about the challenges of maintaining the momentum of positive change. Look around ask yourself – is your district effectively leading your school into an era of educational progress?

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