This RAND evaluation examines Wallace's "cohesive leadership system" initiative to meld school district and state policies so that principals are better able to improve teaching. The study analyzes efforts that were undertaken by 10 states and 17 affiliated districts to coordinate policies and activities related to school leadership so that they would reinforce rather than conflict with and undermine each other. These efforts included improving principal preparation, professional standards, licensure and on-the-job training, evaluation and working conditions. RAND was not able to determine conclusively whether greater policy cohesion led to more time spent on instructional leadership in the sites studied. But comparing each state's progress, researchers were able to identify the eight most successful strategies that allowed participants to build stronger working relationships and greater policy coordination. One of the most effective was selecting project leaders who possessed enough political clout to overcome resistance to change.

Researchers identify a dozen local conditions, such as the stability of district leadership, that are influential in determining where collaborative efforts are most likely to flourish. They also make recommendations on how other states and districts wanting to align their education policies can best begin, build and sustain their work.

 Points of Interest

  • States that motivate school districts to accomplish the most ambitious reforms combine pressure—through regulations, laws or sanctions—with supports like expert guidance or additional funding.
    States influencing #school districts to carry out ambitious policy reforms combine pressure and support. #education
  • Principals who report spending the most time on instructional leadership also say that they have access to timely and accurate student data, professional development through their district and autonomy in decision-making. Certain working conditions are linked to specific instructional leadership practices. For instance, principals with access to good student data reported spending more time spent observing teaching and building a common vision for the school.
    #Principals who get autonomy, sound student data and prof development report the most time spent improving teaching.
  • Overcoming acrimony is often the first step to achieving better policy coordination between state education departments and school districts. States build better working relationships when they listen to and acknowledge district concerns and help address them.
    Overcoming acrimony btw #school districts & state education agencies: a first step toward #education policy reform.

 Supplementary Materials