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Exploring relationships and interactions between district leadership and school leadership teams


Effective schools and district effectiveness studies have shown that high levels of student achievement are possible and more likely to sustain when a district and its schools coordinate and collaborate in the reform process. Much less research has been conducted to understand the linkages between districts and schools and how they may interact to build the social, human, and intellectual capital needed for school reform. Furthermore, district administrators often rely on principals as the primary communicator and implementer of district reform initiatives. Yet, there is growing recognition that the principal cannot lead alone and that school leadership teams are essential to the improvement process. The purpose of this study was to investigate the central office leader, the principal, and the school leadership team perceptions of ideological, structural, communication, resource, and relational linkages between the central office and schools. In addition, this study explored how these linkages may be supporting and/or constraining the district's efforts to build system capacity and capital. The study also provides a unique opportunity to examine in what ways providing professional development to a subset of school leadership teams facilitates district/school efforts to move the district's reform agenda forward by serving as a linkage between schools and the district. This embedded case study was conducted in one K-8 midsized urban fringe district, designated year-two program improvement for failing to meet the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) targets for its English-language learners and students with disabilities. In this case district, five school leadership teams are receiving six days of professional development a year for three years as part of a national study of an effective schools intervention design. Incorporating qualitative data sources as well as a quantitative source, this study presents first-year findings from 45 team members, 5 principals, and 10 central office leaders. Results suggest that the ideological linkage of a shared understanding about what constitutes good instruction may be essential to successful reform implementation. A trusting relationship (social capital) between the central office and schools appears to be a key linkage to supporting structural, communication, and resource linkages and in creating the collective knowledge and capabilities (intellectual capital) needed to move the district's reform efforts forward

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