Leadership Capacity for Lasting School Improvement

By Linda Lambert | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
District Leadership

The most confounding question I've been asked might be the following: [Our school is moving toward Quadrant 4, but our district is still in Quadrant 1. What can we do?] I usually respond with a joke: [Build a moat around the school and fill it with bloodthirsty alligators.]

I used to believe that the school was the primary unit of educational change, and the literature repeatedly insists that it is. However, I'm now persuaded that we can't save education one school at a time. Excellent schools in poor districts implode over time, whereas poor schools in excellent districts get better.

This chapter is designed to help achieve excellence in districts. The district Leadership Capacity Matrix (Figure 9.1), adapted from the school matrix (Figure 1.3), will frame the discussion.


The District Leadership
Capacity Matrix

A district needs to develop not only its own leadership capacity, but that of its schools as well. This dual responsibility requires district administrators to model certain leadership behaviors; to abide by certain structures, processes, and policies; and to focus (and focus others) on student learning.

As you read the following district matrix scenarios, keep in mind that, as with schools, no one organization fits neatly into any box. Consider these scenarios representative of a tendency to act in a particular way depending on the district's breadth of participation and depth of skillfulness in the work of leadership. Most districts will actually display characteristics of all four quadrants.

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