This “Story From the Field” describes how, despite budget cuts, the Denver Public Schools system hired more people to coach and evaluate its principals. A major feature of the district’s overhaul was what’s known in the business world as “reducing the span of control,” or decreasing the number of people a supervisor manages in order to better support each one. Intensive support especially benefits the performance of those who hold down complicated jobs, an apt description of the work that principals do.
Using a federal grant, Denver Public Schools grouped its 20 lowest-performing schools into two regional clusters. Each was assigned an instructional superintendent and a deputy superintendent. According to a district administrator, principals favored the change and it played a role in the turnaround of several schools. Between 2012 and 2013, the district doubled the number of principal supervisors in other regional clusters so each would oversee no more than approximately seven schools. To afford the new positions, it eliminated other regional support staff. Supervisors made biweekly visits to each school for classroom observations, data review and and coaching principals through difficult decisions. District leaders believe the added support could ultimately result in higher student achievement.