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ERIC Number: ED529418
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jul
Pages: 28
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 6
Lessons on Leadership: A Study of Distributed Leadership in Washington State. Research Report #10
Washington School Research Center
As traditionally structured, American schools, in general, have found it more difficult to educate some students than others. In Washington State, as in most other states, the single best predictor of student achievement at the school level is the percentage of students on free or reduced (f/r) lunch status (Abbott & Joireman, 2001). This fact has made comparing school-wide performance problematic, let alone comparing district-wide performance. Therefore, it has been difficult to identify the schools and districts that are most successful at helping their students reach high standards because the comparative success and progress of student achievement must be considered in light of the demographic challenges facing the school and the district. Over the life of educational reform in Washington State, schools and districts have experienced various levels of success in raising student achievement as measured by the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). For the last seven years, the Washington School Research Center (WSRC) has been interested in studying schools and districts in the state that are distinguished by their remarkable progress, despite their challenging demographics, as measured by the WASL. Although it was clear that some schools were experiencing high levels of success (WSRC, 2002), an important consideration for those invested in school reform is the degree to which widespread success is possible. This question led WSRC researchers to conduct their study on effective districts in Washington State (WSRC, 2004). When they began their effective districts study, there was general agreement that highly effective teachers were present in some schools and that highly effective schools were present in some districts. In this study, "Lessons on Leadership," the researchers build upon their previous report on effective districts and examine the types of leadership provided in the 10 districts that have been successful at meeting Washington's learning standards despite their demographic challenges. Their purpose is to add to the growing body of research that identifies distributed leadership as an important characteristic of effective districts. The 10 districts that participated in their two district studies are: (1) Bellingham Public Schools; (2) Central Valley School District; (3) Federal Way School District; (4) Lynden School District; (5) Medical Lake School District; (6) Nooksack Valley School District; (7) Spokane Public Schools; (8) Tumwater School District; (9) West Valley School District (Spokane); and (10) West Valley School District (Yakima). The researchers' analyses confirmed important patterns and themes regarding the "characteristics of effective districts" (as previously reported): (1) Commitment to school reform; (2) Ownership for student learning; (3) Distributed leadership; (4) Collaborative organizational environment; (5) Focus on adult learning; and (6) Trust and relationship-building. In addition to describing how the effective district characteristics developed, the present study uncovered characteristics that were common to the leaders in these districts. The most prominent of these characteristics were: (1) an ability to communicate effectively, (2) a tendency to lead by example before mandating changes, (3) a skill for empowering others to lead, and (4) a capacity for providing support. (Contains 1 footnote.)
Washington School Research Center. 3307 Third Avenue West Suite 210, Seattle, WA 98119. Tel: 206-378-5377; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Seattle Pacific Univ., Lynnwood, WA. Washington School Research Center.
Identifiers - Location: Washington
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Washington Assessment of Student Learning