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tulsa cover imageTulsa Public Schools

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Teachers in Tulsa struggled to meet their students' diverse needs and teach to new, more rigorous standards. High turnover, especially among novice teachers, and very low funding levels exacerbated these challenges.

Even in this tough context, the district increased teachers' collaborative planning time in a set of schools by at least 50 additional minutes per week and created teacher leader roles to facilitate the time. Principals say that new trainings and tools help them make better decisions for their staff and students. The Tulsa Public Schools case study shares how district and school leaders made this happen.  

"[The timeline and new tools] make a nearly impossible job accomplishable in an efficient and effective way."

-Pilot school principal

Tulsa Case Study

highline cover imageHighline Public Schools

Located outside of Seattle, Washington

In 2013, student performance in Highline Public Schools was improving, but achievement gaps persisted among low-income students and students of color. The district brought stakeholders together around a strategic plan that shifted the culture by enabling everyone—from central office, to principals, teachers, and support staff—to see their work as integral for achieving key goals for students.

The results: Since 2013, the graduation rate across all student groups has increased 18 percentage points, including 28 percentage points among black students and 23 points among Latinx students. And in 2018-19, 45 percent of the district's new hires were people of color. The Highline Public Schools case study shares how system leaders made this happen.  

"Knowing every student by name, strength, and need is now baked into the culture of our system. One of the lessons I've learned [...] is you can have the most awesome strategies, the most awesome systems, the most awesome structures and people—but if you don't attend to shifting the culture to enable those systems, strategies, structures, and people to flourish, you will get nowhere."

-Susan Enfield, superintendent

Highline Case Study

Next week, we will send you an email to tell you about the specific ways two districts made traction against another systemic challenge that your district can probably relate to: community engagement



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. 

Our 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. 

Districts at Work frameworkHow 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