Our study reinforces the importance of superintendents leading for instructional improvement but with a hands-on, teaching-and-learning approach.
While superintendents often lead by setting a vision for educational equity, how they work to realize that vision is critical to their success.
During the 2018 meeting of the American Educational Research Association, University of Washington College of Education researchers discussed findings of an in-depth investigation of the daily practice of six superintendents who aimed to lead for equity-excellent teaching and learning for each and every student, especially students of color, students from low-income families and others traditionally underserved in public schools-and who invested in intensive coaching to help them do so.
Professor Meredith Honig said all of the superintendents had improvement agendas that involved 1) adopting an instructional framework, 2) increasing central office engagement in instructional improvement and 3) shifting principal supervision and evaluation to reinforce principals' growth as instructional leaders.
However, how superintendents led those activities varied in ways predicted by socio-cultural learning theory.
"Superintendents who we associated with positive results led in those three areas from a teaching, not a telling or directive, approach," Honig said. "They rolled up their sleeves and worked alongside their leadership team, helping them learn how to lead for excellent teaching and learning even while the superintendents were learning how to do so themselves."
Meanwhile, those superintendents whose daily practice was more hands-off and directive were the ones associated with no progress with the actual implementation of their vision and also with staff confusion over the district's direction, Honig said.
"Our study reinforces the importance of superintendents leading for instructional improvement but with a hands-on, teaching-and-learning approach far different from some characterizations of superintendents as relatively hands-off vision setters," Honig said.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications