School & District Management

Report Urges Input From the Trenches

By John Gehring — August 09, 2005 1 min read
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Teachers and principals should have a more significant voice in shaping large-scale instructional improvement plans, a national urban education group argues.

“A Delicate Balance: District Policies and Classroom Practices” is posted by the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform.

The Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform—a Chicago-based group that works with schools and communities in nine cities—studied how Chicago, Milwaukee, and Seattle implemented instructional improvement plans between 2000 and 2003. The study, “A Delicate Balance: District Policies and Classroom Practice,” found a gap between how central-office administrators envisioned instructional change, and how teachers and school leaders thought about their directives.

The report, released Aug. 1, found that “when principals and teachers are not integral in driving the policy agenda and are not provided with adequate resources and support, big initiatives announced with much fanfare will be impotent at best and, at worst, will make it more difficult for schools to provide quality instruction.”

Among other “lessons learned,” the 104-page report says that districts’ instructional policies often had little impact on improving classroom instruction; goals to improve teaching skills did not match a central-office fixation on test scores; and principals were burdened with an array of responsibilities that often worked at cross-purposes with their roles as instructional leaders.

The study recommends that superintendents spend more time in classrooms developing “a vision of good instruction,” and it argues that central-office policies should be evaluated based on how they help teachers and principals improve instruction.

Diana Nelson, the executive director of the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, stressed that more collaboration is needed between district administrators and teachers.

“One reason why these major policy initiatives fail is that district staff don’t tend to see principals and teachers as peers,” she said. “They tend to see them as people they tell what to do.”

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A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2005 edition of Education Week

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