The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) conducted 35 interviews with superintendents, school board chairs, and selected central-office leaders across seven school districts in three states. The central question underlying all of the interviews was, “Can key district leaders effectively articulate the ways in which their district helps principals improve their schools?”
This report finds that school districts and states are failing to provide principals with what they need to turn around America's most challenged middle and high schools.
Existing policy has focused on the need for strong school leadership but it's overlooked the role districts can play in either supporting or undermining schools. There has also been little attention paid to what state departments of education can do to help districts create a strong vision and plan for their schools' success.
Based on an analysis of practices in seven school districts in three states, the researchers find that struggling schools are most likely to improve when districts have a clear vision of what a good school looks like, organize a set of research-based practices for achieving that vision, and then provide principals with sufficient autonomy and support to carry out those practices.
The report identifies seven strategies successful districts have used to support school improvement. It also provides specific examples of the supports or freedoms principals need, such as the authority to hire their own teachers.
The seven strategies are:
The report also identifies actions districts, states, and schools can take to carry out each of the seven strategies.
Because the ultimate objective is to improve student learning in schools, the optimal actions for schools, districts, and states must be back-mapped from that objective.