Professor Meredith Honig discusses how “learning labs” are giving system leaders an opportunity to experience central office transformation around educational equity.

Creating more equitable opportunities for historically underserved students isn’t just about what happens in the classroom — it also means deeply rethinking how school district central offices do their work.

How to successfully lead that transformation is the focus of a series of “learning lab” visits hosted by the University of Washington’s District Leadership Design Lab (DL2) and Highline Public Schools for school leaders across the country. Starting last spring, the visits have brought superintendents and other school leaders to observe and learn with and from an ongoing research-practice partnership which is exploring how central offices operate when organized around supporting educational equity.

“We want leaders to come away with a deep understanding of how to transform human resources, district data systems, school improvement planning and other functions to support each and every student,” said Meredith Honig, professor of education policy, organizations and leadership.

In October, superintendents and other leaders from 6 northern California school districts participated in a “learning lab” at Highline, and in December, district leaders from across the country will participate in a visit organized with Phi Delta Kappan.

Since systems leaders tend to learn especially well while doing, Honig noted that visits are organized around working sessions in which visitors engage in real challenges in real time to deepen their understanding of and ability to take action on new ideas.

Honig also said that while visiting leaders benefit from observing how Highline is working to transform its central office, the learning is reciprocal.

“Central office transformation is challenging and unfolds over time,” Honig said. “We offer HPS, not as an exemplar but as an example of a district team that has made great progress in taking on the challenge. We organize the visits to advance visitors’ work and to ensure that the time HPS leaders spend on the visit helps advance their own learning and work.”


Meredith Honig, Professor of Education Policy, Organizations and Leadership

Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications