Achieving Coherence in District Improvement
Managing the Relationship Between the Central Office and Schools
Susan Moore Johnson, Geoff Marietta, Monica C. Higgins, Karen L. Mapp, and Allen Grossman
cloth, 256 Pages
Pub. Date: June 2015
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paper, 256 Pages
Pub. Date: June 2015
Add to Cart
Achieving Coherence in District Improvement focuses on a problem of practice faced by educational leaders across the nation: how to effectively manage the relationship between the central office and schools. The book is based on a study of five large urban districts that have demonstrated improvement in student achievement. The authors—all members of Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Project (PELP)—argue that there is no “one best way” to structure the central office-school relationship. Instead, they say, what matters is whether district leaders effectively select and implement their strategy by achieving coherence among key elements and actors—the district’s environment, resources, systems, structures, stakeholders, and culture.
The authors examine the five districts’ approaches in detail and point to a number of important findings. First, they emphasize that a clear, shared understanding of decision rights in key areas—academic programming, budgeting, and staffing—is essential to developing an effective central office-school relationship. Second, they stress the importance of building mutually supportive and trusting relationships between district leaders and principals. Third, they highlight the ways that culture and the external environment influence the relationship between the central office and schools. Each chapter also provides relevant “Lessons for Practice”—actionable takeaways—that educational leaders from any district can use successfully to improve the central office-school relationship.
This book makes an important contribution to a growing literature on urban school districts and the work of instructional improvement. Avoiding simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions, the authors capture the diversity of organizational approaches while at the same time extrapolating core commonalities among them. Rich, practice-based accounts from the field make for an engaging and inspiring read.
— James P. Spillane, professor, Human Development and Social Policy, professor, Learning Sciences, Northwestern University
This thoroughly readable and readably thorough book examines high performing school districts within the US. What explains success in these systems is not centralization or decentralization; autonomy or alignment. The simple answer is coherence - getting everything to hang together and make sense. In a school reform debate that is too often dominated by ideology and extremes, Achieving Coherence in District Improvement makes incredibly good sense.
— Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, Boston College, Education Advisor to the Premier of Ontario
Achieving Coherence in District Improvement offers common-sense takeaways that should prove invaluable to our collective mission of ensuring that all of our children have the best opportunities for a high quality education. This timely and informative study is an important addition to any urban superintendent’s tool kit.
— Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools
About the Authors