Turn and talk; share out briefly three or four examples that the group generates.
We initiated this study in part to help the field understand what are some high impact strategies for improving teaching and learning districtwide. When we say that people sometimes stop in their tracks and ask us: If you care about districtwide teaching and learning improvement, why on earth would you focus on school district central offices? Our study starts from a couple of basic observations about why we have to focus intensely on central offices if we care about those ground-level outcomes. First, we know from study after study of school-level reform that reforms only improve teaching and learning so far or only at a pocket of schools in a district absent substantial participation by school district central offices. But we know this mainly from negative examples. [click to phase in first bullet]. Examples of school reforms hitting a particular wall that researchers usually call, ominously, “the district.” A wall that practitioners have a host of other names for. Two, districts as institutions were not set up to do better. If we look historically, district central offices emerged at the turn of the last century to limited business functions and regulate local compliance with fed and state mandates. Involvement in T and L matters generally focused on ensuring compliance with standards for teacher licensure. Some histories of the superintendency say that there have been significant movements by superintendents to defend their roles as mainly managers not instructional leaders. If you look at the small handful of studies of district central offices that have tried to engage in districtwide teaching and learning improvement, typical finding is that they run into institutional barriers. For example, in San Diego under Bersen and Alvarado main reform barriers to implementation of their districtwide teaching and learning improvements included: Limited knowledge of CO administrators, limited capacity to assist principals with the work. Most studies argue that their reforms which aimed to blow up the bureaucracy didn’t blow it up enough. We believe that CO can do better. But if they stand a chance of doing so, many must fundamentally remake themselves as institutions. So central office transformation is an institutional shift a shift in the core of central offices. Elmore talks about the core of schooling as fundamentally about the nature of student and teacher work and how students and teachers relate to one another. We define the core of central office practice as fundamentally about the nature of central office administrators and school staffs work and how the two relate to each other.
1. The entire district central office as a main unit of reform . Not individual units. All units. Not just those units focused on C and I 2. Fundamentally remaking central office administrators’ work practices and their relationships with schools in support of teaching and learning improvements for all students . Not about implementing a particular reform model. This is an approach to leadership. Not restructuring. A human challenge. What do we already know from other research about what central office transformation involves?
We found the research on school district central offices has serious limitations when it comes to shining light on this problem of practice. We divide the research on school districts into three overlapping waves. Wave 1: For decades educational researchers have studied school district central offices mainly using quantitative methods to assess district effects on school outcomes. Such studies reduced districts to single or discrete variables as though districts were single actors. Such an approach significantly obscures the various ways central offices interact with and matter to what schools do. Early research on districts also focused on superintendents and their self-reported actions as proxies for school district central offices which also don’t help us see how myriad central office staff actually do or do not work in service of teaching and learning improvement. Studies in this vein continue today. Wave 2: Around mid 1990s we start to see a subset of studies looking more in depth at individual districts and the dynamics of reform. These studies are improvements over Wave 1 in their deeper focus on what happens within central offices but their empirical base is weak. Most examples are of central offices impeding not supporting teaching and learning improvement. As with the effects studies we still get reports of “the district” as the main actor not a more nuanced differentiated picture of what people in central offices do. And the evidence from these studies is limited. Researchers rely on principal reports and one-time interviews with central offices to inform their conclusions about what central offices do. But so much of what central offices do happens beyond what principals observe and over time– limiting the utility of those data sources. Too many researchers go into a district that is posting teaching and learning gains and conclude that those results stem in part from whatever the central office was doing at the time. Attribution by coincidence hardly provides a robust model for understanding how what district central offices do matters at the school level. Wave 3. More promising are wave 3 studies that involve researchers going inside central offices over time to understand what such central offices are doing and why.
1, Improvement depends on the work practices of all central office administrators. For example, Honig’s studies of central office participation in new small autonomous schools initiatives and other reforms reveal that implementation hinged substantially on new ways of working within the central office. And when single offices reformed and improved how they worked with schools, their effectiveness hinged substantially on their colleagues in other units. We take from these kinds of studies that research moving forward should aim to better understand work practices across central offices that may be associated with T and L improvements. Much of the research on central office practices has begun to conceptualize those practices as learning and draws on theories of organizational and socio-cultural learning as conceptual grounding. We think those studies are on the right track. The entire knowledge base on districts underscores that if you are not careful about your selection of case, you are likely to choose a district central office that demonstrates what central office administrators do when they impede implementation of improvement efforts. We wanted to study positive cases– places where we were likely to observe central office administrators doing better. We know from the research that central offices as institutions are not set up for the new work demands of teaching and learning improvement. So we chose cases engaged in a promising reform approach we call “central office transformation.” Given our characterization of the problem of central office engagement in teaching and learning, we hypothesized that districts engaged in COT were at least getting the problem right.
We defined COT as a distinct approach to central office change that: Focuses centrally and meaningfully on teaching and learning improvement . Other central office reforms aim to increase the efficiency with which the central office provides basic services to schools and say that those efforts are in service of T and L improvement. COT as a reform strategy makes explicit meaningful connections between what all central office administrators do and teaching and learning improvements. Engages entire central office unit in reform . As we noted earlier, work within central offices is highly interdependent, despite the traditional depiction of central offices as siloed. Accordingly, central office transformation involves remaking how all central office administrators work with schools. Accordingly, reform participants are not just those people working on curriculum and instruction or professional development, but rather include everyone from the entire central office, no matter what department, unit, or function. 3. Central office administrators’ fundamentally remake their work practices and their relationships with schools in support of teaching and learning improvements for all students . School district central offices routinely reform themselves by restructuring formal reporting relationships within central office hierarchies, adding and removing central office units, or revising their standard operating procedures. While structural changes can be helpful, central office participation in district-wide teaching and learning improvements is fundamentally about remaking what the people in central offices do—their daily work and relationships with schools. 4. Central office transformation is an important focus for reform in its own right . Some districts aim to remake central office work practices and relationships with schools in service of implementing a particular program or initiative. Central office transformation involves ongoing work on central office practice that supports teaching and learning improvement that transcends particular programs or initiatives.
MC Reinforce how we aimed to really get at individual CO admin practice. Will be hard pressed to find another study that looks this deeply into Cos. This work goes deeper that virtually any other study of central office administrators’ practice to date.
MC to talk through the new elements…….
MC – briefly outline the nature of beginning partnerships in Seattle and Idaho Share the tool, in draft form, emphasize “draft” as a means for districts to examine their own practices in critical areas. 5D Instructional Framework that we’re using in districts across the country, and a corresponding assessment of leader’s expertise with observing classroom instruction
Wsu presentation.9.18.pp mike copland
District Central Office Transformation for Teaching & Learning Improvement Meredith I. Honig & Michael A. Copland, PIs Lydia Rainey, Juli Anna Lorton, Morena Newton WSU Superintendent’s Program September 18. 2010
Opening Question <ul><li>When a central office is really supporting the improvement of teaching and learning, what does that work involve? </li></ul>May 28, 2009
Why Focus on Central Offices? <ul><li>School reforms hit a wall: “The district” </li></ul><ul><li>Districts as institutions: Not set up to achieve better outcomes </li></ul>
Central Office Transformation <ul><li>Distinct approach to district-wide teaching and learning improvement that: </li></ul><ul><li>Takes entire central office as the main unit of reform </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamentally remakes central office administrators’ work practices and relationships with schools and, particularly, with principals </li></ul>
The Problem with Research 2010 <ul><li>Wave 1: District Effects & Superintendent </li></ul><ul><li>Reports </li></ul><ul><li>Weak conceptualization of “district” </li></ul><ul><li>Wave 2: District Case Studies </li></ul><ul><li>Empirically thin </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- Principal reports not observations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- One-time interviews </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Attribution by coincidence </li></ul></ul></ul>Wave 3: Studies of Administrators’ Decision-making & Work (e.g., Spillane, Hannaway, Honig, Hubbard et al.; Kennedy)
Wave 3 Studies <ul><li>Lessons </li></ul><ul><li>Improvement depends on CO work practices </li></ul><ul><li>All central office administrators must participate </li></ul><ul><li>Practices involve “learning” </li></ul><ul><li>Old institution not set up for new work </li></ul><ul><li>Implications </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on work practices across CO </li></ul><ul><li>Use learning theory for conceptual framework </li></ul><ul><li>Choose cases engaged in “transformation” </li></ul>
Central Office Transformation <ul><li>Focuses centrally on teaching & learning </li></ul><ul><li>Engages entire central office in reform </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamentally remakes CO work </li></ul><ul><li>practices and relationships with schools </li></ul><ul><li>Important reform initiative in own right </li></ul>
Research Questions <ul><li>In school district central offices engaged in central office transformation: </li></ul><ul><li>Who participates? </li></ul><ul><li>What do they do? </li></ul><ul><li>With what results? </li></ul><ul><li>What conditions help or hinder transformation and associated outcomes? </li></ul>
Research Design & Methods <ul><li>Strategic research sites </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Atlanta Public Schools (APS) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New York City (Empowerment Schools Org.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Oakland Unified School District (OUSD, CA) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Qualitative, comparative case study </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interviews: 240 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observations: ~220 hours </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Documents: ~200 </li></ul></ul>May 4, 2010
Example from Atlanta <ul><li>Atlanta’s work in supporting teaching and learning improvement through a transformation of the central office has been featured nationally. </li></ul><ul><li>Cue the video snippet……. </li></ul>May 4, 2010
Central Office Transformation Framework <ul><li>1. Learning-focused partnerships with school principals to deepen principals’ instructional leadership practice </li></ul><ul><li>2. Assistance to the central office-principal partnerships </li></ul><ul><li>3. Reorganization and reculturing of each central office unit to support the central office-principal partnerships and teaching and learning improvement </li></ul><ul><li>4. Stewardship of the overall central office transformation process </li></ul><ul><li>5. Evidence use throughout the central office to support continual improvement of work practices and relationships with schools </li></ul>
Findings <ul><li>Central office transformation: </li></ul><ul><li>is a promising reform strategy; </li></ul><ul><li>requires fundamental change in the institution of the central office; </li></ul><ul><li>distributes leadership (and responsibility) for learning improvement across the system; </li></ul><ul><li>strikes a different relationship with schools, focused on partnering around joint work; </li></ul><ul><li>involves flexible and dynamic support; </li></ul><ul><li>is uncharted territory that requires new learning and support. </li></ul>May 4, 2010
Resources & Applications <ul><li>Partnerships with districts and states to support action on study findings focused on ways central offices work productively to improve teaching and learning. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Current examples: Seattle SD, Idaho Supts Network. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tools in the form of frameworks, and district self-assessment rubrics, to help inform the work on central offices from the UW Center for Educational Leadership. </li></ul>May 4, 2010
Discussion <ul><li>At Tables, questions for discussion: </li></ul><ul><li>How does what you just heard about central office transformation inform your work as a “learning-focused” central office leader, if at all? </li></ul><ul><li>For those of you from smaller districts, to what extent do these ideas apply? </li></ul><ul><li>Where and how do you see central office leaders “leading” instructional improvement in your district currently? </li></ul>May 4, 2010