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District leaders have told us that they are hungry for concrete examples of how to take on common challenges, such as finding time for teacher collaboration, guiding principals through budget uncertainties, and setting students up for postsecondary success. Each week in April, our new Districts at Work series will share two case studies about school systems gaining traction with low-income, black, and LatinX students. 


KIPP Bay Area Case Study Front Cover

KIPP Bay Area

Oakland, California

KIPP Bay Area principals had the "power to lead"—that is, the flexibility to design an instructional vision and strategy for their schools. But unpredictable enrollment and funding fluctuations made it challenging to implement. 

Today, 100 percent of KIPP Bay Area principals have long-term, financially sustainable school design plans and 82 percent of school leaders feel "very supported" by the Regional Support Office's finance team. The KIPP Bay Area Districts at Work case study shares how system leaders made this happen. 

"Schools shouldn't feel like they're on an island, like they have to do everything on their own. Instead, they should have the power to lead where it matters."

-Ruchi Thiru, managing director of operations and information

Learn more about how KIPP Bay Area supported principals to manage budget uncertainties

SEZP Front CoverSpringfield Empowerment Zone

Springfield, Massachusetts

In 2014, the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP) was created to turn around nine persistently low-performing middle schools. Principals were given autonomy over school design—but this autonomy wasn't enough without the necessary information and support.

Four years later, SEZP principals have dramatically improved school designs and instructional models. Three schools increased their state percentile rank for student growth in ELA by 10 or more percentage points, and four schools have accomplished this same feat in math. The SEZP Districts at Work case study shares how system leaders made this happen.

"Technical details can make or break the work you're doing on adaptive change."

-Kelley Gangi, chief of instructional improvement

See how SEZP supported principals to lead school turnaround

During the coming weeks, we will send you two emails to tell you about the specific ways school systems featured in our Districts at Work series made traction against two systemic challenges that your district can probably relate to: school planning and community engagement



Districts at Work FrameworkOur new Districts at Work series profiles eight school systems that tackled familiar challenges and are gaining traction. We also share tangible tools, templates, and more. 

How did these eight districts get their initiatives to really work for students and schools? We found one common ingredient: the central office supported schools in a better way by: (1) setting a clear theory of action for how schools can succeed, (2) following through with tough resource trade-offs, and (3) redesigning processes—such as timelines, tools, and mindsets—to support schools' ability to implement the changes. These are the gears that transform strategic plans into powerful engines of student learning. 

Go to the Executive Summary


The Promise and Peril of ESSA School Spending Transparency Karen Hawley Miles and Jonathan Travers of ERS, for FutureEd

Policies Working in Interaction, Not Isolation, are the Ones That Count in Class Ben Jensen, Learning First