Sustaining Improvement Through Changes in Leadership

It’s great when a school or district leader does something to impact conditions, culture, and student achievement positively, but what happens when that transformational individual leaves?  A study found that 45% of a group of 215 superintendents studied in 2006 left their districts within three years.  (See more reports of superintendent—both district and state—turnover here and here.)

Aside from Long Beach, there aren’t many traditionally low-performing urban districts that stand out as having sustained large improvements through a change in leadership. There seems to be an attitude of “this too shall pass” when it comes to transformational leadership.

So what is a district, or state, to do?

Here’s what we think: in order to make deep changes that will outlast their leadership, leaders must make deep structural changes in addition to their cultural changes so that momentum will not be lost during a transition.  That includes restructuring the district, specifically the central office, from its current form to redistribute responsibilities and accountability structures.