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Promising Practice:

Effective School and District Leadership

While teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement, school and district leadership also matter.

At the site level, leaders can make decisions that create the right conditions for success: setting the tone and culture of the school, developing schoolwide expectations for student learning, helping determine academic and non-academic goals, providing instructional leadership that engages teachers to teach for mastery and for counselors to focus on college and career readiness rather than simply graduation requirements, and generally creating the conditions that support educators to be the best they can be for their students. District leaders have the potential to create similar conditions for success across the entire district so that school leaders feel supported in their daily work while also providing the flexibility for site leaders to make decisions that best meet the needs of their students. Creating the right conditions at the school and district level and developing consistency of leadership and expectations is especially important in schools serving high concentrations of low-income students and students of color, where leadership turnover tends to be more pervasive.


  • District and school leaders and staff have time to develop their skills and experiences through professional learning opportunities and collaboration. This time is made possible by shifting master schedules and using early release days to plan and collaborate with teachers teaching similar subjects and grade levels.
    • Schools and districts provide new administrators with extra training and support from mentor administrators, particularly in historically underserved schools.
  • All administrators participate in ongoing training on implicit bias and cultural competence to ensure high expectations for all students.
  • District leaders incentivize the highest performing administrators to take jobs in, and continue working in, historically underserved schools.
  • District and school leaders make a concerted effort to hire diverse administrators that know and reflect the student population they serve.
  • District and school leaders promote from within the community to ensure leaders know and are already dedicated to the communities they serve.
  • District and school leaders have a clear vision for success and create the conditions that support a healthy environment for administrators to support teaching and learning.
  • District and school leaders view themselves as instructional leaders, dedicating a minimum amount of time each week to be spent in classrooms observing teaching and learning.
  • District and school leaders use data to drive instructional planning and monitor student progress.
  • District and school leaders reallocate resources to ensure that students who need the most support receive the services they need to be successful.


The following can serve as indicators of effective school leadership. Ask that these indicators be included in your school and district plans and/or reported publicly:

  • Input from the community on the school leadership selection process
  • Number and percentage of administrators by race and gender
  • Dedicated funding for leadership coaching and collaboration
  • Administrator trainings on implicit bias and cultural competence
  • Schoolwide and districtwide decisions about instruction and programming are based on data



Karen Chenoweth and Christina Theokas, “Leading for Learning,” American Educator (Fall 2012).

“Leadership Matters: What the Research Says About the Importance of Principal Leadership” (Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary Principals, 2013),

“Building and Supporting Great School Principals and Leaders,” American Institutes for Research,

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