Improving Districts in the California Context

Reading List: District Improvement

In this section we provide a series of publications that address the district role (particularly with regard to school improvement) and district capacity.

District Role

**McLaughlin & Talbert (2003). Reforming Districts: How Districts Support School Reform. A Research Report. Seattle, WA: Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy. Available at https://crceducation.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/reforming-districts_0_0.pdf

This paper draws on evidence from three California districts undergoing reform to address the question of how districts influence – and might facilitate – school reform efforts to improve student learning. Based on their data, the authors counter several myths about the reform process: teachers and principals resist a strong district role; turnover derails efforts to establish and sustain a consistent reform agenda; and local politics will defeat any serious reform agenda.

**Duffy, F.M. (2004, January). Navigating Whole-District Change: Eight principles for moving an organization upward in times of unpredictability. The School Administrator. Available at https://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=13478

Addressing the district change process, this article asserts that change in school systems is a non-linear process and is complicated by a complex environment. Change must be navigated, rather than managed. Duffy provides eight principles for creating and sustaining large-scale change.

Marsh, J. (2002). How Districts Relate to States, Schools, and Communities: A Review of Emerging Literature. In A. Hightower, M.S. Knapp, J. Marsh, & M. McLaughlin (Eds.). School Districts and Instructional Renewal (pp. 25-40). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Available for purchase at: http://www.amazon.com/Districts-Instructional-Critical-Educational-Leadership/dp/080774266X

Marsh reviews a growing body of literature suggesting that districts can be important agents of instructional change. This review focuses on literature on state-district relations and district-school relations, examining the district as a central unit of change.

Tyack, D. (2002). Forgotten Players: How Local School Districts Shaped American Education. In A. Hightower, M.S. Knapp, J. Marsh, & M. McLaughlin (Eds.). School Districts and Instructional Renewal (pp. 9-24). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Available for purchase at http://www.amazon.com/Districts-Instructional-Critical-Educational-Leadership/dp/080774266X

In this article, Tyack discusses the evolution of school districts from an historical perspective. The article emphasizes the role of school boards and their relationship to district administrators.

District Capacity

Spillane, J.P., & Thompson, C.L. (1998). Looking at Local Districts’ Capacity for Ambitious Reform. CPRE Policy Bulletin. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Available athttp://www.cpre.org/images/stories/cpre_pdfs/pb-05.pdf

This policy bulletin outlines three aspects of districts’ capacity to support instructional reform: human capital, social capital, and financial resources. The report is based on findings from a study of nine Michigan districts.

Massell, D. (2000). The District Role in Building Capacity: Four Strategies. CPRE Policy Briefs. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Available at http://www.cpre.org/images/stories/cpre_pdfs/rb32.pdf

This policy brief explores four major capacity building strategies implemented by districts – interpreting and using data; building teacher knowledge and skills; aligning curriculum and instruction; and targeting interventions on low-performing students and/or schools. The brief describes the use of these strategies and outlines issues and challenges facing districts in implementing these strategies.

**This document is considered a priority reading.