Monday, June 25, 2012

District-level leadership that works...

I just started reading "District Leadership That Works: Striking the Right Balance" by Robert Marzano and Timothy Waters. I'm hoping that as I transition into a central office position this book will provide a better understanding of how they operate and ways they can operate more effectively. The book outlines five specific actions in which all district leadership should engage:

1 - Ensuring collaborative goal setting: Effective superintendents include all relevant stakeholders, including central office staff, building-level administrators, and board members, in establishing goals for their districts.

2 - Establishing non-negotiable goals for achievement and instruction: Effective superintendents ensure that the collaborative goal-setting process results in non-negotiable goals (goals that all staff members must act upon) in at least two areas: student achievement and classroom instruction. Effective superintendents set specific achievement targets for schools and students and then ensure the consistent use of research-based instructional strategies in all classrooms to reach those targets.

3 - Creating board alignment with and support of district goals: Districts with high levels of student achievement have a local board of education that is aligned with and supportive of the non-negotiable goals for achievement and instruction. They ensure these goals remain the primary focus of the district's efforts and that no other initiatives detract attention or resources from accomplishing these goals.

4 - Monitoring achievement and instruction: Effective superintendents continually monitor district progress toward achievement and instructional goals to ensure that these goals remain the driving force behind a district's actions.

5 - Allocating resources to support the goals for achievement and instruction: Effective superintendents ensure that the necessary resources including time, money, personnel, and materials, are allocated to accomplish the district's goals. This can mean cutting back on or dropping initiatives that are not aligned with district goals for achievement and instruction.

There are three major findings that are presented in this book:

Finding 1: District-level leadership absolutely matters

Finding 2: Effective superintendents focus their efforts on creating goal-oriented districts

Finding 3: Superintendent tenure is positively correlated with student achievement

**BONUS thought: Building-level administrators excel when working in an environment that supports autonomy. Administrators without autonomy are not as effective when compared to those who have autonomy to meet their building's needs. Marzano describes a concept called "defined autonomy," which is when the superintendent expects all other district administrators to lead within the boundaries defined by the district goals. In other words, building-level administrators have the autonomy of how to achieve the goals and mission outlined by the district and ultimately the superintendent. Thoughts...?

Great online resource and partial summary of the book: School District Leadership That Works

Whatever your current role in education is, what advice do you have for district-level administrators? In your experience, what makes an effective district-level administrator versus an ineffective district-level administrator? What is your definition of the ideal district-level administrator?