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ESSA Leadership Learning Community

In 11 states, community, district, and state stakeholders regularly discussed how to promote effective, equity-minded school leadership. Innovations and policy ideas emerged.

What we did

What does an institute to help five Wisconsin cities strengthen their sitting principals have in common with a rural Nebraska alliance to train aspiring school leaders? Both emerged from a six-year effort that worked in 11 states to bring together a diverse set of community, school district, and state voices. The purpose was to provide a forum for discussion about how best to improve school leadership, especially for schools with the highest needs. This Wallace-organized effort was spurred by the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act in late 2015. ESSA, as it is commonly known, gave states and locales new authority over spending federal education dollars. 

What we learned

Researchers from Policy Studies Associates examined the effort, the challenges it faced, and the policy ideas and projects that resulted from the participants' work. The endeavor was unusual, the authors say, because of its composition. It assembled teams of people who don’t normally engage with one another for extended, serious conversation about public schools. That lack of communication was surprising because of the big stake in education held by all the participants—community members who rely on schools to provide their children with a strong education, school district leaders, and state education officials. The researchers highlight both the difficulties and the creative thinking that can emerge from encouraging discussion among these stakeholders, even if it sometimes gets fraught.    

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