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District Improvements

A critical challenge facing American educators is how to improve the quality of schools in high-poverty school districts so that all students have an opportunity for academic success. Several recent studies – including the Learning First Alliance report Beyond Islands of Excellence– offer promising examples of districts that have raised student achievement across most schools. Evidence from improving school districts suggests that districts should:

  • Garner the courage to acknowledge poor performance
  • Invest sufficient resources in improving instruction and make hard choices to allocate limited resources to this core mission
  • Build a framework of instructional supports for all schools including clear goals, districtwide curricula, and strong professional development
  • Engage all stakeholders in instructional improvement so that everyone – board members, administrators, teachers, union leaders, parents, and community leaders – takes on roles for which they are best positioned
  • Invest heavily in relevant and research-based professional development – where teachers and principals share ideas and investigate good practice; data drives the content of professional development; and staffing and scheduling structures provide for increased collaboration among teaching staff
  • Acknowledge that leaders must encourage innovation and recognize that there are no quick fixes

Unfortunately, many districts struggle to provide the resources and supports needed to improve teaching and learning on a large scale. The Alliance calls on educators and policymakers to build the political will to invest in districtwide strategies that support the instructional work of teachers and principals and increase student achievement.

Alliance Publications on Districtwide Improvement
Alliance reports and case studies outline findings from a two-year study of five improving high-poverty school districts. These reports show how the districts raised student achievement by focusing on districtwide strategies to improve instruction.

Districtwide Success Stories on Public School Insights (2008)
This new Learning First Alliance website offers accounts of what is working in public schools and districts across the country. Click here for stories about districtwide strategies that are improving student outcomes.